The Abhidhamma Philosophy
The Pali term Abhidhamma is composed of Abhi which means subtle or ultimate, and
Dhamma which means truth or doctrine. Abhidhamma therefore means subtle or ultimate
truth or doctrine.
All the Teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one
word: Dhamma. Dharma is the Sanskrit form. In the Pali language which the Buddha
spoke, it is softened to Dhamma. It means truth, that which really is. As it enables
one to realize truth the Doctrine is also called Dhamma.
The word of the Buddha,
his entire Teachings called Dhamma, consists of three aspects. the doctrinal (pariyatti),
the practical (patipatti) and the realizable (pativedha). The doctrinal aspect
is preserved in the Scriptures called Three Pitakas or baskets of the Canon. It
has been estimated by English translators of the pitakas to be eleven times the
size of the Christian Bible.
This Pitaka which contains the words of the
Buddha consists of three baskets, namely the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka),
the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka) and the Basket of Ultimate Things (Abhidhamma
The Vinaya Pitaka deals mainly with the rules and regulations of
the Order of monks (Bhikkhus) and nuns (Bhikkhunis). It also gives a detailed
account of the life, ministry of the Buddha and the development of the Buddhist
Order. It is subdivided into five books. The Sutta Pitaka contains the discourses
delivered by the Buddha to individuals or assemblies of different ranks at different
places on different occasions. It is divided into twenty-six books. The Abhidhamma
Pitaka consists of the four ultimate things: Mind (Citta). Psychic-factors (Cetasikas).
Matter (Rupa) and Nibbana. It is the most important and most interesting to a
deep thinker. It is subdivided into seven books.
The main difference between
the Sutta and the Abhidhamma Pitakas is that in the Sutta the doctrines are explained
in the words of conventional, simple language, but in the Abhidhamma everything
is analyzed and explained in purely philosophical terms true in the absolute sense.
Thus, in the Sutta. stones are called 'stones', animals 'animals' and men 'men',
but in the Abhidhamma realities of physical and psychical phenomena are described
Abhidhamma is a philosophy in as much as it deals with the
most general causes and principles of things. It is also an ethical system because
it enables one to realize the ultimate goal, Nibbana. As it deals with the working
of the mind, thoughts, thought processes and psychic factors, it is also a system
of psychology. Abhidhamma is therefore generally translated as The Psycho-Ethical
Philosophy of Buddhism.
The discourses in the Sutta Pitaka were generally
expounded to suit temperaments of different people and so they are rather like
prescriptions. In the Abhidhamma Pitaka all these doctrines are systematically
elucidated from the philosophical, psychological and physiological standpoint.
As such Abhidhamma is underlying all the Teachings of the Buddha. A knowledge
of it is therefore essential to understand dearly the Buddhist Doctrine.
is highly prized by deep thinking students of Buddhist philosophy but to the average
student it seems to be dull and meaningless. The main reason is that it is so
extremely subtle in its analysis and technical in treatment that it is very difficult
to understand without the guidance of an able teacher.
Of the four ultimate
realities with which Abhidhamma deals, one is mind. Now, what is the mind? Mind
has been explained by many philosophers and psychologists in various ways.
According to Abhidhamma, mind is power to think, to know. The power of the mind
stands no comparison with anything known by us, but we may compare it with the
colossal energy inherent in electricity, or perhaps with atomic power. Even as
electrical power could be utilized for different purposes, good, bad or indifferent,
so also our mind. The atomic power now utilized for human destruction could be
utilized for the alleviation of human suffering as well.
Mind may be said
to be like pure, transparent water which can be mixed with anything. When it is
mixed with mud, it becomes thick and defiled and you cannot see through. In the
same way, this supreme, incomparable energy known as mind, which is by nature
clear, bright and transparent, becomes dirty, defiled and poisonous by ill use.
Take another power known to us; steam power. It can be utilized for the purpose
of hauling or dragging huge weights of materials under proper control or an intelligent
use. If this power is misused, or uncontrolled, the result is disastrous. A steam
boat carrying a large number of passengers can bring destruction to life and property
if the steam power is not controlled and dexterously used. The abuse of the mind
can destroy hundreds of times more than any physical power can. But the same mind,
when it is developed and trained for good purposes, can perform wonders. For instance,
see the mind of the Buddha who, by the supernormal powers of his well trained
mind, is able to influence millions of people throughout the world and bring them
to light and understanding, to joy and happiness.
A pure mind is defiled by
thoughts of greed, anger and ignorance. There are some people who have attained
positions of eminence, and because their minds are so defiled they have brought
ruin not only to themselves but also to large sections of the people. They are
utilizing their powerful minds in a wrong direction. It is just like a revolver
in the hands of a monkey.
Here in this article, for want of space. I may deal
with only one aspect of the mind, to show how it can easily be made impure. I
may deal with the aspect that works through the eye. When we see an object, we
do not see its real or intrinsic nature, we see only its appearance. An image
of the object is formed only if we keep our eyes in the right direction so that
the waves of light which have been reflected by it enter our eyes. Though these
waves are incessantly beating on the outside of our sense organ, eye; if the eye-lid
is closed they make no sense impressions. It is not, then, any soul from within
us that goes out to seize upon and grasp the object, but the phenomena are, as
it were, making their way into our consciousness through the sense door. All our
thoughts or concepts based on those sense impressions are therefore indirect,
secondary to truth and not free from personal prejudice. We therefore, in actual
fact, have no direct knowledge of what really exists in the world of physics;
nevertheless the objects in the outside world of physics are real but not as an
observer sees them. The objects in the outside world of physics exist independent
of our awareness. These physical objects, according to the Buddhist philosophy,
consist of four aggregates or elements. Therefore what we see is only the appearance,
the image of the object which appears in the retina of our eye. We imagine that
what we see is real, but it is our own imagination of appearance. Therefore our
knowledge of what we see is composed of appearance; hence we mistake the appearance
for an object, the shadow for the substance. Ignorance of this nature leads to
delusion in which imagination plays a great part, giving rise to craving for what
does not exist.
It reminds me of a little story. There was once a fox which
was looking for something to eat. He stopped at a tree covered with red flowers.
He looked up and waited till a bunch of flowers fell. He then ran towards it thinking
of eating with relish, because he imagined that what he saw on the tree was some
deep red flesh. He smelt it, but to his dismay, discovered that it was not what
he expected. But he did not lose heart. He said, 'Not this, but those up there
are'. So he waited; some more bunches of flowers fell, and every time they came
down, he repeated the same experience. Thus he remained the whole day starving,
imagining that the real thing was still on the top of the tree.
people think that things exist when they do not really exist. We are usually looking
for something new and sometimes for things which do not really exist. We look
to appearances without realizing their intrinsic values.
Now, we come to the
question whether 1 exist, whether 'you' exist. This is a common question. It was
asked not only at the time of the Buddha. but also long before he appeared. The
Buddha was asked this question and he has answered it again and again; but people
have not been satisfied, and today we are asking the same question. According
to the Buddhist philosophy, 'I' am real, and 'you' are real, they exist; but they
exist not in the way we see them. What we see is an illusion, because what we
see, or what we think we see is not real. It is only an appearance, a phantom
which our mind has created out of appearance or image. We therefore can say that
there are two 'I's and two 'you's. The 'I' that exists and has being in the world,
and another 'I' that exists only in the world of the senses and so is not real.
The former 'I' exists in its real sense, in its intrinsic value, and can be realized
only by a well trained mind, unobscured by the illusory nature of phenomenal existence.
According to Buddhist philosophy, this 'I' consists of five aggregates. The combination
of these five aggregates in varying degrees constitutes the appearance to which
we attribute different names. It is right knowledge that makes us discriminate
the ultimate nature of things from superficial appearances, the real from the
unreal, and truth from imagination.
The object coming to the view of an ordinary
man would be seen only in the light of his own limited knowledge, in the light
of his own imagination. He does not realize the aggregates that have made up the
view represented by the object. He then attaches qualities that are either attractive
or repulsive, desirable or undesirable. He often imputes qualities to people,
but these qualities are in point of fact created out of his own imagination. because
he sees only the image of the person concerned. He thereby makes mistakes because
he does not go beyond the appearance.
A Buddhist annotator gives this simile
in this connection. He says that people who have no insight as to the ultimate
reality of things are acting like a dog in a story. It appears there was a dog
which came across a dry, lean bone. Being hungry, it began to lick it and try
to eat it. In the process its saliva made the bone wet, and it soon began to chew
the bone with great relish imagining that it was fat, juicy flesh.
world observer is like the dog in the story. He imagines he is happy when he really
is not. He imagines something to be substantial and therefore permanent, when
in point of fact, by its very nature, it is the reverse. He imagines something
which really does not exist, thus giving rise to sorrow, worry, suffering.
We talk of attractive and unattractive qualities. Now, do these qualities exist?
According to Buddhist philosophy, there is nothing definite, because what is agreeable
or desirable to one may be disagreeable or undesirable to another.
are usually thought to be good or bad accordingly as one imagines. Dead flesh
that appears to us to be bad looking and having a foul smell, appears to a vulture
to be good looking with a fine taste and smell. Hence what is attractive to one
may be repulsive to another. What is lovely in one's eye may be ugly in another's.
Good or bad, beautiful or ugly, therefore, depends on one's taste and habitual
There is a little story to illustrate the fact that what is attractive
to one may not be attractive to another. The story is that once there was a golden
royal swan, living in the Himalayas, surrounded by beautiful flowers and crystal
clear streams, and living on sweet and juicy fruits of various kinds. One day,
he flew out to see the conditions on the flat surface of the earth. He was surprised
to see that the condition had changed. The water was muddy and the surroundings
were ugly. He then spied a crane in a muddy pool, ardently spying for something.
The golden swan, seeing the plight of his brother, took pity on him, and flew
down. Approaching the crane, he asked sympathetically: My poor brother, I am very
sorry to see you in this wretched condition. You look so thin and unhappy. Please
tell me what you are doing now'. The crane replied, 'I am looking for food'. 'What
do you eat?', enquired the swan, getting interested. The crane replied that he
lived on fish caught in the pool. This made the swan feel unhappy. Fish is not
good food, it has such a nasty smell, said the golden swan, 'besides, you are
living by killing others' lives. Come with me to the Himalayas where you can get
sweet, juicy fruits, beautiful flowers and pure water', and he gave a very beautiful
account of the life and conditions there. 'Yes. brother swan', said the creature
of the lowlands, your account is so interesting and so beautiful indeed, but pray
tell me, is there any muddy water where I can catch fish?' The swan ultimately
had to give up his attempt, laudable though it appeared to him to be.
quality of attraction and repulsion, desirability and undesirability depends on
convenience, customary practice and predispositions. We may all agree that a certain
living thing is beautiful, but the sense of appreciation varies with various individuals.
There is nothing definite about what is beautiful in the real sense. I remember
I was at one time in the National Gallery in London, and there I saw a group of
people quarrelling amongst themselves as to which picture was more beautiful,
One said this and another said that, and nobody agreed on any. So there is nothing
definite about what is beautiful and what is not, what is attractive and what
is not, what is desirable and what is not. So long as we base our knowledge on
sense impressions, imaginations, appearances, we cannot hope to arrive at truth,
at the ultimate nature of things.
There is therefore a clash of visions, a
clash of judgements amongst the people of the world. One man's view of idealism
is different from that of another, one man's view of any subject is not in strict
conformity with that of another. We talk of peace, but how can we attain peace,
real peace, when people do not have clear visions? Our visions are covered with
ignorance, selfishness and hatred. We are living in a world of imagination rather
than of truth. There can be no possibility of attaining peace either here or hereafter
if we do not rid ourselves of greed, misunderstanding and hatred. Our task as
students of philosophy, therefore, is to keep our minds pure, clear and bright,
so that our minds will become powerful instruments for the service of humanity
at large. Then we can become peace makers and builders of a united world.
To achieve this end, we must cultivate our minds to become great by culture and
mental training, by service, selflessness and understanding.
talk in the series of 16 classes on the Citta Chapter given at The London Buddhist
Vihara during the summer of 1983
According to the Buddhist Teaching there
are three kinds of world,' loka' in the Pali language,. Kamaloka, Rupaloka and
Arupaloka, three kinds of planes of existence. Kamaloka is called the plane, or
we may say sphere, of sense pleasures, this world - according to Buddhism, the
world of sense desires. Kama, desire, plays the greatest part in this world, desire
through the eye, desire through the ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; desire, meaning
greed, is predominant in this world, therefore the name Kamaloka. We can realize
in our actions that thing which we have most in everyday life: wish - 'I wish
this', 'I wish that'; wish, the desire to have. As consciousness, 'citta' in Pali,
it is consciousness of, belonging to, the Plane of Sense Desire; that is, this
In this world, Kamaloka, there are altogether for ordinary puthujjanas
fifty-four types of consciousness (except one,hasituppada, the smile of the arahatta).
We experience some of these fifty-four types, which you have already studied;
first of all the akusala states, the eight bad types of immoral, greedy conscious
ness; the two hateful, angry types of consciousness; the two ignorant types of
consciousness rooted in dullness and delusion - lobha, dosa, moha, altogether
twelve. We all of us experience these twelve, I can say every day, every hour
if not every time.
Now, resultant types of consciousness, which arise as a
result of our immoral actions also the result of our moral actions; they are known
as rootless, ahetuka, and are eighteen in number. Looking at the chart we see
resultant, 'vipaka' in Pali; bad resultant seven types, good resultant of lower
kind eight types, and three inoperative. Thus in all, so far, thirty types: twelve
immoral plus eighteen rootless resultant.
Then in this world we also have
good types of consciousness known as sobhana, beautiful types of consciousness.
There are eight active moral (kusala) types known as beautiful, sobhana, which
we experience also more or less every day. Good, moral consciousness means we
can do good actions with one of these eight types; anything we do good, we do
with one of these types of consciousness. As a result, therefore, we have eight
types of good resultant (vipaka) consciousness because of our actions, physical,
verbal or vocal, and mental. Because of our beautiful thoughts we utter beautiful
words and we do beautiful actions, known as moral actions, as the result of which
we have, mentally, eight types of beautiful resultant consciousness. Verbally,
as a result of good thoughts (mental action), what we say will be very good, useful,
helpful, pleasant; people will like us, love us, appreciate what we say. As a
result we shall have everything good, verbally. These types of consciousness can
also be experienced by the arahattas, perfect beings like the Buddha and paccekabuddhas,
but their actions are not cumulative, their consciousness does not accumulate,
does not produce any result, therefore they are only inoperative, 'kiriya' in
Pali. Thus, with eight inoperative types of sobhana consciousness, there are in
all twenty-four sobhana states making a total of fifty-four types of consciousness
that can be experienced in this world, or plane, Kamaloka.
Now we can go higher
by developing our good consciousness into higher types of consciousness. For the
attainment of the next, higher, plane of consciousness, Rupaloka, the Plane of
Form, beings have very fine, refined bodies in that existence, they are all jhanic
persons, very highly developed mentally, so high that they can live even thousands
of lives, in some cases millions of lives, without eating. Wherever they want
to go they can fly without having or bothering to buy tickets, making arrangements,
without looking after cars or aeroplanes, in that Rupaloka. Because their physical
body is so refined, beautiful; that is one way of explanation of the name Rupa
for that existence. Another explanation is that to reach that state, to be born
in that world, one's object of meditation is form, not the mind; that is why it
is called Rupaloka, the Plane of Form, and the conscious states are known as consciousness
of the Plane of Form. In that world their moral actions are five: first, second,
third, fourth and fifth jhana, good (kusala) consciousness. They have as a result
five resultant, vipaka, types of consciousness. And there are five inoperative,
kiriya, types for the Buddhas, also arahattas; in all, therefore, fifteen. In
this world fifty-four types of consciousness, and in the Plane of Form fifteen.
Now one can go still higher, Arupaloka, the Formless Plane, where they have no
form - as already explained in an earlier class. In that existence there are four
moral (kusala) actions, four resultants (vipaka) and four inoperative (kiriya)
states, altogether twelve. So in these three planes of existence there are altogether
eighty-one types of consciousness known as mundane types of consciousness: in
Kamaloka fifty-four. Rupaloka fifteen and in the Formless Plane twelve. Though
the Rupa and Arupa types of consciousness are much higher than this world, yet
they are still mundane, not supramundane. By attaining these highest types of
mundane consciousness we can enjoy life, the great lengths and periods of which
are explained in this book (Abhidhammatthasangaha), but still they are only mundane.
When we should like to attain even higher, that highest type of consciousness
is called supramundane, Lokuttara. There are four kusala types of Lokuttara consciousness
and four types of resultant, making a total of eight types of supramundane consciousness.
Thus, including every type of consciousness, eighty-one plus eight, there are
in all eighty-nine types of citta.
To study supramundane consciousness please
refer to the book, page no. 61, Moral Supramundane Consciousness'. ('A Manual
of Abhidhamma' by Narada Mahathera, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka,
1980) There are four types of consciousness, Path consciousness: sotapatti Path
consciousness, sakadagami Path consciousness, anagami Path consciousness, arahatta
Path consciousness. In Pali they are called sotapattimagga, sakadagamimagga, and
so on; magga is translated in English as path. So, altogether four types of Path
consciousness; these are the four kusala or moral types of supramundane consciousness.
There are exactly the same number of resultant types of supramundane consciousness,
'phala' in Pali, in English, fruit; sotapatti fruit consciousness, sakadagami
fruit consciousness, anagami fruit consciousness, arahatta fruit consciousness.
Now, reading from the book, 'These are the four types of supramundane moral and
resultant consciousness. Thus end, in all, the eight types of supramundane moral
and resultant consciousness. Differing according to the four paths the moral consciousness
is fourfold. So are the resultants, being their fruits. The supramundane should
be understood as eightfold'. And, still following the book, 'Thus the "immorals"
are twelve, the "morals" are twenty-one, the "resultants are thirty-six,
the "functionals (inoperative)" are twenty. In the Sensuous Sphere,
they say, the wise say, 'are fifty-four types of consciousness; in the Form Sphere
are fifteen; in the Formless Sphere are twelve; in the Supramundane are eight'.
Next, the explanation of how, why, eighty-nine types of consciousness become one
hundred and twenty-one, see page 63 in the book: 'How does consciousness which
is analyzed into eighty-nine become one hundred and twenty-one?' You already know
eighty-one types of mundane consciousness, and now the eight supramundane are
further divided into forty, eighty-one and forty totalling one hundred and twenty-one.
The eight supramundane become forty in the following way, as shown in the book,
'The first jhana sotapatti Path consciousness together with initial application,
sustained application, joy, happiness and one-pointedness'; you have already studied
these jhanic states in Rupaloka, the Plane of Form. 'Second jhana sotapatti Path
consciousness together with sustained application, joy, happiness and one-pointedness',
and so on, third jhana, fourth, fifth, altogether five. Thus there are five types
of sotapatti Path consciousness because of these five jhanas. as is also the case
with sakadagami, anagami and arahatta Path consciousness; each is developed into
five by way of the five jhanas, making exactly twenty types of Path consciousness.
Similarly there are twenty classes of Fruit (phala) consciousness, making in all
a total of forty types of supramundane consciousness.
Referring to the summary
in the book on page 64: 'Dividing each (supramundane) consciousness into five
kinds according to different jhana factors, the supramundane consciousness, it
is said, becomes forty. As the Form Sphere consciousness is treated as first jhana
consciousness, and so on, even so is the supramundane consciousness. The Formless
Sphere consciousness is included in the fifth jhana'.
Here again some explanation
is needed. In the Sphere of Form there are three first jhanas - one kusala, one
resultant and one inoperative. In Lokuttara there are eight first jhanas - one
each in the four Paths and one each in the four Fruits. Thus there are in total
eleven first jhanas. Similarly there are eleven second jhanas, third jhanas and
fourth jhanas. When, however, it comes to the fifth jhana, not only are there
eleven in the way just described, but because all the twelve types of consciousness
in the Formless Sphere are of the category of fifth jhana this brings the total
of fifth jhana states to twenty-three. Fifth jhana has only two dominant factors,
equanimity and one-pointedness of mind. Because all the twelve arupa types of
consciousness have only those two dominant factors, they are included in that
Referring to the book again, 'Thirty-seven are morals, fifty-two
are resultants; thus the wise say that there are one hundred and twenty-one types
of consciousness'. Kiriya, the inoperative states, are not mentioned here. 'Thus
ends the first chapter of the Abhidhammatthasangaha which deals with the analysis
Now to show how this supramundane consciousness can be
experienced, how only with supramundane consciousness can one attain Nibbana,
and not with any of the mundane states. Nibbana is the highest type of happiness
and is attained only by the highest types of consciousness. Lokuttara states,
not ordinary states of consciousness, therefore ordinary puthujjanas cannot know
what Nibbana is, will not understand what it is. If one wants to talk about it
one can, but one will not realize it. one cannot appreciate it; by mere thinking,
no matter how high one's thoughts are, as long as they are mundane one will never
He who practises meditation is called a yogi, and the yogi
who wishes to realize Nibbana tries to understand things as they truly are; one
must understand what things are. From the book. page 65: 'With his one-pointed
mind he scrutinizes his self' - scrutinizes, examines thoroughly, deeply his self;
that is, the so-called 'I'. What is self? What is 'I'? If one wants to attain
Nibbana one should first examine what 'I' is, what we are; so- 'he scrutinizes
his self, and on due examination discovers that his so-called ego, or ego-personality'
- the so-called soul - 'is nothing but a mere composition of mind and matter'.
If you analyse your body. including the so-called 'I', you or soul, or spirit
or , you will discover that the so-called ego-personality, the so-called 'I'.
is nothing but a mere composition of mind and matter. 'The former', that is mind,
'consisting of fleeting mental states' - that have already been explained, that
you have studied - 'that arise as a result of senses coming into contact with
sense stimuli - i.e., an object - 'and the latter' - i.e., matter, body, the composition
- 'of forces and qualities that manifest themselves in multifarious phenomena'
- many and various kinds of phenomena. So by analysing mind and body one discovers
these forces, four kinds of elements, and qualities. These forces are only qualities.
'Having thus gained a correct view of the real nature of his self ' - having
analysed the so-called body and mind, and gaining a correct view of the real nature
of his self, the so-called 'I' - 'freed from the false notion of an identical
substance of mind and matter' - one sees what mind is, what matter is - 'he attempts
to investigate the cause of this ego-personality' - this so-called self, or soul,
or spirit. 'He realizes that everything worldly, himself not excluded, is conditioned
by causes past or present, and that this existence is due to past ignorance (avijja)'
- as we said in Paticcasamuppuda, this existence, our own existence, is due to
past ignorance - 'craving (tanha), attachment (upadana), kamma' - that is, our
action - 'and physical food (ahara) of the present life' - because of food we
exist. 'On account of these five causes this personality' - this soul, so-called
'I' - 'has arisen and as the past activities have conditioned the present, so
the present will condition the future. Meditating thus', - that is what we call
meditation, studying what the so-called 'I', you, is composed of. So, meditation;
what is meditation?
Some people use the word contemplation. What is the difference
between meditation and thinking, between meditation and contemplation? For the
attainment of Nibbana the Pali word is vipassana, and it is translated into English
as meditation, which is not an actual equivalent; for the want of words we use
the term meditation. Meditation is not the real complete meaning, it does not
convey the full meaning of the Pali term vipassana. Vipassana means 'vi' and 'passana'.
'Vi' has two meanings, visesana and vividha. Visesana means specially; passana
means seeing; so, to see the object specially, not in an ordinary way is the meaning
of visesana. That is to say, when one tries to meditate, when one uses or practises
vipassana, one sees objects differently, specially, not in an ordinary way. Ordinarily,
when one is not trying to meditate, if one sees a man one is conscious of, aware,
there is a man, a woman, there is a dog, cat, and so on, that is the ordinary
way of seeing. In a meditative way, in the vipassana way, one does not see a man
or woman, one sees specially, one sees that the so-called man and woman are just
a composition of mind and matter. One should go beyond the surface, beyond the
appearance, that is what we call vipassana, seeing in a special and not ordinary
conventional way. One will never realize truth if one sees things in an ordinary
Now, vividha, the other meaning of 'vi', means differently,
in the light of the Three Characteristics. As a meditator one sees not the body,
not the appearance, one sees the so-called object in the light of the Three Characteristics;
that is what we call vipassana. This so-called body and mind is subject to change;
changing, changing, like the second hand of a clock or watch, changing, following,
flowing. So when one sees an object one sees it in the light. of transiency, impermanence;
and anything that is changeable is not really desirable. That is dukkha. Then
another, the third Characteristic, is, there is no permanent, eternal substance
in anything in the world we see, that is to say in animate beings like human beings,
animals, there is no eternal principle in a body, no immortal soul. When we say
a body, that body is moving, changing; mind and body are moving, and so on. So
when as a meditator we see the object specially, not in an ordinary, conventional
way, we see it in the light of the Three Characteristics. That is meditation,
that is vipassana.
If one refers to the dictionary, meditation means thinking,
thinking about, therefore it is entirely different from the meaning of the word
vipassana. If one wants to practise Buddhist meditation it means vipassana meditation,
to see objects specially, not in the ordinary way, to see objects in the light
of the Three Characteristics (anicca, dukkha, anatta).
Now, the book, still
on page 65 - 'Meditating thus he transcends all doubts with regard to the past,
present and future (kankhavitaranavisuddhi). Thereupon he contemplates that all
conditioned things are transient (anicca), subject to suffering (dukkha), and
devoid of an immortal soul (anatta). Wherever he turns his eyes he sees nought
but these Three Characteristics standing out in bold relief'. He sees them very
clearly. 'He realizes that life is a mere flowing, continuous undivided movement.
Neither in a celestial plane nor on earth' - earth does not mean the ground, but
this world. So, neither in a celestial or divine world. i.e., heaven - 'does he
find any genuine happiness, for every form of pleasure is only a prelude to pain'.
If one sees this, one sees things as they are, suffering. To ordinary worldly
people everything pleasant is supposed to be very pleasurable, enjoyable, but
to that person such pleasure is only a prelude to pain. 'What is transient' -
impermanent - 'is therefore subject to suffering, and where change and sorrow
prevail there cannot be a permanent ego - cannot be a permanent soul.
he is thus absorbed in meditation', - vipassana - 'a day comes when, to his surprise,
he witnesses an aura emanating' - coming forth - 'from his body (obhasa)'. If
his meditation is enhanced he sees an aura, he experiences an unprecedented pleasure,
happiness and quietude - 'He becomes even-minded. strenuous. His religious fervour
increases' - that is, his strength - 'and mindfulness becomes perfect, and insight
'Mistaking this advanced state of moral progress for
sainthood', - the meditator may think, 'Ah! I have attained sainthood, sotapatti'
- 'chiefly owing to the presence of the aura, he develops a liking for this mental
state. Soon the realization comes that these new developments are only obstacles',
- the hindrances - 'to moral progress', they are not real' - 'and he cultivates
the purity of knowledge with regard to the Path and non-Path (maggamagganana-dassanavisuddhi)'.
So he tries to see whether the path he is following is the real Path or not.
'Perceiving the right path', - so he chooses - 'he resumes his meditation on the
arising (udaya nana) and passing away (vayanana) of conditioned things. Of these
two characteristics the latter becomes more impressed in his mind, because change
is more conspicuous than becoming'. This also needs explanation. This is one of
the stages of the nanas when one is meditating on the arising and falling away
of one's consciousness, gradually one sees more clearly the falling part than
the arising part; that is what it means - 'more impressed in his mind, because
change is more conspicuous than becoming. Therefore he turns his attention to
the dissolution of things (bhanga nana). He perceives that both mind and matter
which constitute his personality, are in a state of constant flux', - change -'not
remaining for two consecutive moments the same. To him comes the knowledge that
all dissolving things are fearful (bhaya nana). The whole world appears to him
like a pit of burning embers, a source of danger. Subsequently he reflects on
the wretchedness and vanity (adinava nana) of the fearful world', - to him the
world is to be feared - 'and feeling disgusted with it (nibbida nana), wishes
to escape therefrom (muncitukamyata nana).
'With this object in view he meditates
again on the Three Characteristics (patsankha nana), and thereafter becomes completely
indifferent to all conditioned things', - he is not interested in worldly things
- 'having neither attachment nor aversion for any worldly object (sankharupekkha
nana). Reaching this point of mental culture he takes for his object of special
endeavour one of the Three Characteristics that appeals to him most, and intently
keeps on developing insight in that particular direction, until that glorious
day when, for the first time, he realizes Nibbana, his ultimate goal'.
continuing on page 67 in the book, there is a kind of diagram showing how the
process of consciousness takes place. Then - 'When there is no parikamma thought-moment,
in the case of an individual with keen insight, there arise three phala thought-
moments'. Just the process of consciousness.
'These nine kinds of insight',
- namely, udaya-vaya nana, and so on - 'are collectively called patipadananadassanavisuddhi,
purity of knowledge and vision as regards the practice.
'Insight found in
this supramundane Path consciousness is known as nanadassanavisuddhi, purity of
knowledge and vision.
'When the spiritual pilgrim realizes Nibbana for the
first time he is called a sotapanna, one who has entered the stream that leads
to Nibbana for the first time. He is no more a worldling (puthujjana) but an ariya'
-noble one. 'He eliminates three fetters, namely, self-illusion (sakkayaditthi),
doubts (vicikiccha), and adherence to wrongful rites and ceremonies'- rituals-
'(silabbataparamasa). As he has not eradicated all the fetters that bind him to
existence, he is reborn seven times at most' - in this world. 'In his subsequent
birth he may or may not be aware of the fact that he is a sotapanna', - first
noble one - 'nevertheless, he possesses the characteristics peculiar to such a
'He gains implicit confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha', - then
he becomes a real Buddhist, really, otherwise one's confidence is very shaky.
When one reaches the state of sotapanna, the fiat, initiative state of ariya,
one's confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, is fixed, established - 'and he would
never violate any of the five precepts. He is, moreover, absolved from states
of woe, for he is destined to enlightenment.
'Summoning up fresh courage as
a result of this distant glimpse of Nibbana, the ariyan pilgrim makes rapid progress,
and perfecting his insight becomes sakadagami (once returner), by attenuating
two other fetters, namely, sense-desire (kamaraga) and illwill (patigha).
'In this case, too, and in the case of the other two advanced stages of sainthood,
a javana thought-process runs as above ...'.
Now, just to conclude easily,
please read to the end of this section and turn to the last paragraph on page
'It will be noted that the fetters have to be eradicated in four stages'.
This comes in the section just mentioned for you to read for yourselves. 'The
Path (magga) thought-moment occurs only once. The Fruit (phala) thought-moment
immediately follows. In the supramundane classes of consciousness the effect of
the kusala cittas is instantaneous. Hence it is called akalika (of immediate fruit);
So in the case of supramundane consciousness, moral (kusala) consciousness,
one experiences the result immediately, not like ordinary worldly moral actions,
lokiya, mundane states, where 'effects may take place in this life, or in a subsequent
life, or at any time until one attains Parinibbana.
'In mundane consciousness
kamma is predominant, while in supramundane consciousness panna, or wisdom, is
predominant. Hence the four lokuttara cittas are not treated as kamma'. Kamma
is only a worldly function. In the case of supramundane moral consciousness, this
moral action is not known as kamma because it will not produce an ordinary worldly
result; that is the attainment of Nibbana.
"These eight cittas', - types
of consciousness - 'are called Lokuttara. Here loka means the pancupadanakkhandha,
the five aggregates of attachment. Uttara means that which transcends. Lokuttara
therefore means that which transcends the world of aggregates of attachment. This
definition strictly applies to the four Paths. The Fruits are called Lokuttara
because they have transcended the world of aggregates of attachment'. Lokuttara
is really the name for Path consciousness, because the Path is really the work
which cuts, or transcends the world. The Fruit is only the result, that is what
Now the rest of this first chapter in the book explains how the
eight types of supramundane consciousness become forty. That is the end of the
section on citta, consciousness.
Just to conclude our study, our talk, I would
like to read, not much, just a little about Nibbana. The book explains how to
reach the state of Nibbana; what I am going to read is, what is Nibbana?
is the result of the cessation of selfish desires. That is the literal meaning.
'ni' and 'vana'; 'ni' means not, and 'vana' means selfish desire. It may also
be defined as extinction of lust, hatred and ignorance, freedom from lust, hatred
and ignorance. So Nibbana means the cessation of selfish desire, the absence of
craving, hatred and ignorance.
The Pali word is Nibbana, formed, as just
said, from the negative particle 'ni' and 'vana'. The Sanskrit word Nirvana comes
from the root 'va', which means to blow, and the prefix 'nir' which means off
or out; hence Nirvana in its Sanskrit form means the blowing out of the flame
of personal desires.
Both explanations are negative explanations of Nibbana.
The predominance of the negative explanation of Nibbana resulted in the mistaken
notion that it is nothingness; some people even translate Nibbana as nothingness,
or annihilation. Annihilation of what, though? They will not say what, but just
that Nibbana means annihilation or nothing. If that is so, why should the Buddha
have wasted his time for attaining nothing?
However, in the Buddhist scriptures
we find many positive definitions of Nibbana, such as: Nibbana means the highest
refuge; safety; unique; absolute purity; supramundane; security; emancipation;
peace; and so on, there are many positive definitions. Nibbana is, therefore,
not a negative concept; because it is the cessation of craving, the blowing out
of man's selfish desires, and that blowing out of desires leaves a man free. Nibbana
is, therefore, freedom. Freedom, though, does not mean freedom from circumstances,
nobody is free from circumstances. It is freedom from the bonds with which we
have bound ourselves to circumstances, my circumstance, my activities, my, my;
so we bind ourselves to our circumstances, make circumstances as our own. Thus
Nibbana is freedom from those bonds.
That man is free if he is free from selfish
desire, hatred, illwill, ignorance. That man is free who is strong enough to say,
'Whatever comes I accept as best'. Who can say that? Though we may express it,
some people may say it, but actually only the man who is free from these evil
fetters can truly say so, only he is really free.
Freedom does not mean that
one can do everything that can be imagined; people may think freedom means that
one can do anything one likes. Freedom does not mean that one can defeat a lion
with a slap of the hand. Some people might think that if one had that kind of
power that that would be freedom. Freedom to do anything we wish is not freedom,
because still there is a wish, which is a return to the bondage of our desires.
Freedom means that one cannot be made a slave to anyone or anything. One is free
because one is free from personal desire, free from resentment, free from anger,
free from pride, free from fear, impatience; free, from all craving. Such a man's
binding emotions have been blown out like so many candles; that man is free here
on earth, he has reached Nibbana in this world.
May all be well, healthy,
happy, wealthy - you may like to be wealthy - and successful in all your noble
undertakings. May you attain this state of Nibbana without much difficulty, and
as soon as possible.
A talk given at The London Buddhist
Vihara on 9th October 1983
The subject of my talk this evening, as the chart
in evidence on the blackboard shows, is Paticcasamuppada.
is a Pali term meaning the Law of Dependent Origination, or Dependent Arising,
the arising of a state dependent on the antecedent state. The discourse in Pali
on Paticcasamuppada is one of the very well known and very important discourses,
because without this aspect of the Teaching it is rather difficult to understand
why and how one becomes a being. a human being. This Law of Dependent Origination
mainly answers three great questions which had always puzzled the Bodhisatta,
the Buddha to be, before he became the Buddha. As the Bodhisatta he had for countless
lives practised all kinds of austerities, searching for truth, approaching many
well known philosophers and meditation masters, from all of whom he had received
all kinds of answers.
Of these three great questions the first is, 'Where
did we come from?' Sitting here this evening you may say, '1 came from my home,
from my flat' and so on, but this question is not asking an ordinary question;
'Where did we come from into this world, into this existence?' is the question
being asked. Do you think you may be able to answer it? For immeasurable lives
the Bodhisatta had looked for the answer, but none of the philosophers in any
of those periods whom he approached was ever able to give him a satisfactory reply
to this question, some saying that if you want to know where you have come from
you should know the beginning of life.
There are sixty-two views, wrong views,
about existence, where beings come from, how they start; however, if I deal with
the sixty- two views you will be remaining here in this vihara all night, so I
will take only three views which the Bodhisatta received from those well known
philosophers, religious teachers.
The first view given was that the beginning
of life is your fate, you must have faith in fate; you cannot do anything by yourself,
you have to rely on your fate. Thus they taught that fatalism is the beginning;
whatever comes to you it is because of your fate, and you cannot do anything about
it. That in Pali is known as sahetuka, the cause of your existence; consequently
you cannot make any plan for your own development to be free from all suffering.
And what is suffering? You already know, I think, the very well known Dhammacakkapavattana
Sutta, the first sermon preached by the Buddha in which he expounds the Four Noble
Truths - Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering and the
Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering. In Paticcasamuppada suffering is also
explained, where it is shown that suffering is together with jati, the Pali word
for birth. Birth is suffering. Consider your own birth, how difficult it was,
what a dreadful state in a mother's womb as a foetus; to begin with a tiny spot,
so tiny that no magnifying glass would help to identify it, then gradually developing,
in some cases for seven months, in some for eight, nine months, in a mother's
womb; that is suffering. If you were to live in a house say twenty feet wide by
twenty feet long, you may say. 'Oh! what a very narrow house, very narrow'. It
would not be very comfortable and you would not be regarded as a very rich person
if you had to live within such confined conditions, yet consider the room you
occupied when as a foetus in a mother's womb. And the suffering of birth is followed
by jara, byadhi, old age and decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, physical pain,
grief and despair; and a little more than that - to be separated from beloved
ones is suffering, to be associated with those whom we dislike is suffering, not
to get what one wishes is suffering, and so on; such is dukkha.
knows this Paticcasamuppada one cannot begin to understand the real nature and
function of cause and effect, the cause of suffering, how suffering arises. And
in meditation there is a stage where one becomes free from doubt about one's own
existence; this again means a knowledge of Paticcasamuppada, a proper understanding
of cause and effect, so that no doubts exist as to how one arises and passes away
as a human being.
But getting back now to the Bodhisatta's quest for an answer
to, 'Where did we come from?' As has already been said, the first view given by
one of the well known philosophers was that the beginning of life is due to fate.
The second answer he received was that life started, or has started, without any
cause, it just happens, there is no cause.
The third view was that the beginning
of life is neither really fatalism nor causeless, the beginning of life is due
to a creator, a supreme being, he started it.
So, with the third view that
the beginning of life is due to the creation of a supreme being, supreme god,
he received those three different answers from the well known philosophers of
those times, but the Bodhisatta was not satisfied with any of them. If a supreme
being is the cause, he also must have a cause. Without a cause how could he live,
who gave him his power of creation, the power to create? The unlimited power of
which a supreme god is supposed to be possessed; where did that power come from.
originate, how did he start, was there not a prior almighty being who created
him, and so on? If you say. 'Oh well, it is normal, it is just natural', then
you may say of yourself too, 'I come to this world naturally'; but it still does
not answer the question of what cause, what preceding condition gives rise to
such a natural, normal happening.
It was not until the Bodhisatta realized
this doctrine of Paticcasamuppada, the wheel of life, the continuous process of
cause and effect, that he was able to find the answers to his three main questions.
On the chart on the blackboard we can see there a big circle depicting the wheel
of life. Of the twelve sections, links in the chain, the wheel, can we say which
is the beginning, which is the end? The explanation will come.
second question was, 'Why are we here?' Why are we here in this world as human
beings, why? We do not know, any more than we know where we came from; ordinary
students, ordinary beings do not know the answer.
And the third great question
was, 'Where are we going?'
Now, the answer very briefly to the first question,
'Where did we come from?' We come from out of the past, even as today comes out
of yesterday. This life is the result of the past life, before this life. We come
from out of the things we have done before, out of the past labours unfinished.
Although we have laboured, our work is not complete, if it were we should not
be here, we should be somewhere higher. We come out of past vices and virtues,
vices and virtues we have accumulated, out of the darkness of our own ignorance,
out of our own desires. We should like, we desire, to live here; and we should
like to come again, we have a great desire to come, but in a better way, physically,
mentally, emotionally, morally - any way a little better, if not too much. In
the way of wealth we should like, we desire, to be richer, physically more beautiful,
to live longer, and so on. Thus we have come down into the present, bringing with
us an unlimited accumulation of vices and virtues; therefore we can do evil things,
but also we can do wonderful things, good things. In Paticcasamuppada it explains
how the process works.
But proceeding now to the second question, 'Why are
we here?' We are here because of the past, for the past gives birth to the present,
and from the present is born the future. We are brought here by our own joys,
our own sorrows, but most of all we are led here by our desires, and here we remain.
For how long? Until the last selfish desire is annihilated. Desire for self: 'I
want', 'I have a desire to do this and that', countless desires. All elfish desire
must be totally annihilated, if there is one left we shall not attain Nibbana
yet. To the wise man the life he lives here is an opportunity to rid himself of
the burden which he has accumulated in the past; to rid himself of his own wrong
doings, his wrong view points, to rid himself of his wrong concepts of life and
death, and, leaving them all behind, to place his feet upon the Middle Way. Until
then we shall be here, coming back again and again.
And the answer to the
third question, 'Where are we going?' We are going to the effects of our causation,
the results of our actions, the effects of our causes. Those whose labours are
unfinished will go around the wheel of life, known in Pali as samsara. Samsara
means going round the wheel of life, returning again and again.
So those whose
labours are unfinished merely go around the wheel of life, samsara, and return
again to labour towards fuller completion. Those who have followed the Middle
Way, the Eightfold Path, and finished their labours, reach the state of Nibbana,
complete cessation of all suffering.
Until the Bodhisatta, just before he
became the Buddha, realized Paticcasamuppada fully, he was continuously searching
for the answers to the above mentioned three great questions which had always
Now, the wheel of life, how do we start? If we refer to the chart
we can see there avijja, ignorance. This life begins with - not very pleasant
- ignorance, that is how we start, because of ignorance; if we had attained wisdom
we should not be here. But in taking avijja as the starting point in the circle,
the wheel, the question arises as to what is the cause of avijja? The answer will
come later. The wheel does not show the supreme ultimate beginning, the commencement
of samsara, it shows the present life, the life we are living now and its relation
to the past and future.
So we are starting at avijja, ignorance, in the circle.
Ignorance of what? Ignorance, mainly, of the Four Noble Truths; also ignorance
of Paticcasamuppada, ignorance of one's own past and present. If we really realize
the Four Noble Truths we shall attain wisdom, we shall attain Nibbana, but this
circle. Paticcasamuppada, only deals with mundane states because we are as yet
mundane beings, it does not deal with supramundane states in which Nibbana is
the object of consciousness. So it shows the wheel of life of puthujjanas, ordinary
beings. Puthujjana, very thick- skinned, thick with greed, hatred and ignorance;
therefore we ordinary people are called puthujjana. that is one of the etymological
explanations of puthujjana. So Paticcasamuppada refers only to puthujjana beings,
and as such we are going round and round in the whirlpool of this circle without
finding the outlet.
In order to discover the outlet our job is to know the
Four Noble Truths. The Truth of Suffering, as briefly discussed earlier, everyone
experiences from the beginning in a mother's womb. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering:
the cause is craving, craving for existence, greed for this and that. The Truth
of the Cessation of Suffering, release from suffering: that is Nibbana, The Truth
of the Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering: that is the Eightfold Path.
If one knows the Four Truths really, not theoretically but with full realization,
one can get out of this circle.
Next to avijja in the circle comes sankhara.
Sankhara is translated in different ways - literally it means doing, acting; it
means activities, mainly mental activities. Abhidhamma students who are present
here will know the twenty-nine possible types of active conscious states that
may take place in the case of puthujjanas, the twelve immoral states, eight moral
and nine meditational states. Sankhara, here, means these twenty-nine types of
consciousness. Owing to ignorance sometimes we do good actions, but mostly we
do bad actions because mostly we do things rooted in greed and hatred. Under the
influence of ignorance we do all kinds of actions. We are ignorant really of which
is right and wrong, although we may know just generally that certain actions might
be good, certain actions might not be good. Therefore, blinded by ignorance we
do wrong actions, although sometimes we do good actions, but not commonly. Generally
we do actions because we like, which means based on greed; in the main greed is
our guide, desire is our guide, we are guided by greed. So we like this and that
and the other all the time, all the time wanting, wishing. And why? Because of
avijja, not understanding the result of greed, without knowing the influence or
power of greed. If we do not get what we want we are disappointed, frustrated,
we get angry and wild; but the result of this is not mentioned yet, here.
There are altogether twelve factors in this circle, Paticcasamuppada, and there
are three periods. i.e., past, present and future. As the starting point we have
mentioned avijja, the first factor, ignorance of the Four Noble Truths, and so
on. Hoping to get a good result we do actions; that is sankhara, the second factor.
These two factors, avijja and sankhara, are the past period, and they have brought
us to this world. Our past good actions such as giving, offering dana, observing
certain precepts, having some good thoughts; because of good kamma in the past
we come to this world.
So, because of sankhara the third factor arises, vinnana,
rebirth consciousness in this world. Vinnana is the present period, resultant
section, arising as the result, the outcome of the past avijja-sankhara, the cause.
Vinnana, here, means not all types of consciousness but rebirth consciousness
after death. Thus, beginning this present life, we have first patisandhi consciousness
- relinking consciousness - that which links this present life with the past.
Rebirth consciousness arises, we are reborn, that is why we use the word rebirth,
not reincarnation which means a soul is reborn. In Buddhism, because there is
no soul, we do not use the word reincarnation or incarnation.
cannot work alone, it has some associated mental factors which work together with
it, in Pali known as cetasikas; and being mind it cannot exist alone, it needs
a body as a result of past actions. Therefore because of our relinking consciousness,
dependent upon our relinking consciousness, we have mind and body, nama and rupa,
the fourth factor in the circle. The translation given on this chart here is mentality
for nama and materiality for rupa, but mind and body is rather easier to understand.
Then, because of mind and body, depending on mind and body, you have six bases,
the fifth factor in the circle. We have five external sense bases: eye, ear, nose,
tongue and body (touch). We also use the Pali word dvara, meaning door, because
of two functions. Through the eye-door, for example, we take a visible object.
and through the eye-door we let it go; therefore the eye has two functions, coming
and going. The term base is used in the sense of a base upon which consciousness
can function. And the sixth is an internal base, or inner door, the mind-door.
It has two meanings, for it is not only a base or door but it is our life-line
as well in Pali, bhavanga - which leads us on from birth to birth. following this
wheel round and round. Physically the heart is mentioned as the base for thought.
And so, depending on nama and rupa, mind and body, we have six bases. Depending
on these six bases, because of them, there is contact, the sixth factor in the
circle. Contact - in Pali, phassa - impression, impingement. Contact means there
is contact between an external sense object and the appropriate sensory surface,
or sense base. For example, when a visible object and the sensitive surface of
the eye, the eye base, are at a correct distance and there is proper light, then
contact between the two arises, the visible object impinges on the sensitive surface
of the eye. Similarly with sounds and ear base. In the Abhidhamma it is fully
explained how it works with forms and sight, and so on. Because of the five sense-doors,
and mind-door, because of these bases, or doors, we have contact. When something
touches the physical body, then contact arises via the body-door (touch); that
is phassa, contact.
Now because of contact one feels, feeling arises, the
seventh factor in the circle. When there is contact with an object of touch via
the body-door, one feels. If the touch is smooth one may have a pleasant feeling,
if the touch is rough or coarse one may have an unpleasant feeling, a neutral
feeling, and so on. So because of feeling contact arises- in Pali, phassa paccaya
Looking at the circle on the board we can see that avijja-sankhara
are the past period. From vinnana (rebirth consciousness) to vedana (feeling)
inclusive, these five are the present period. Because of the past we are born
in this life, to begin with. rebirth consciousness; because of which there is
mind and body; and because of body there are the six bases; because of the six
bases there is contact; and because of contact feeling arises. These five in the
present life come as a result of avijja-sankhara, our past actions, and are shown
on the chart as the present resultant section.
When pleasant feeling arises,
liking arises, 'I like it', greed arises, craving - tanha - the eighth factor
in the circle. It is due to feeling that craving arises; without feeling greed
cannot arise. When we see something, hear something. if it is pleasant, 'Ah' I
like it, I must have it, I cannot do without it', pleasant sights, sounds, and
so on, mostly selfish desire or wish for self. Then what about unpleasant feeling?
In Paticcasamuppada, when greed arises depending on feeling, how can we have greed
for something which we dislike? The answer to this question is given in Visuddhimagga.
In the case of unpleasant feeling, say one is ill, sick, one has a very painful
ache, still greed arises because we have a desire to get out of that pain, to
be free from that unpleasant feeling; so, craving arises either way, following
pleasant or unpleasant feeling.
Some people who are poor would like to be
rich, this is desire. Some rich people desire to be richer; so, greed by the poor,
greed by the rich. The more one gets the more one wants, more greedy really. This
greed, this desire in this present life does not belong to the resultant section
which ends at vedana, we go on now to the new thing, the new activity, doing.
committing. producing that which is the cause of our future. From these activities,
as a result of them, so our future will manifest itself. Thus tanha, craving,
is new, fresh activity, the commencing factor in this period shown on the chart
as the present causal section.
To repeat - because of the past, avijja-sankhara,
we have five present resultants: vinnana, nama-rupa, salayatana, phassa and vedana.
Nama-rupa, as you know, is counted as one factor. So we are here, enjoying our
past, the result of our past action, and now we are going to do new things. If
we try to stop going round this wheel, to get out of this circle, we shall have
to become without tanha, craving, greed.
Once tanha has arisen then attachment
follows, in Pali upadana; that is the ninth factor in the circle. The difference
between tanha (craving, greed) and upadana (attachment) - in English it is very
clear - tanha is light desire, upadana is deeply rooted, we are attached. Greed
is not attached, does not reach the state of attachment, it is just ordinary desire,
Following attachment bhava, becoming, arises; the tenth factor in the
circle. Tanha paccaya upadana, upadana paccaya bhava. What does it mean, becoming?
Becoming means we are starting. acquiring new, fresh kammic energy for future
life. Bhava has two aspects: kamma-bhava, action cumulative of resultant, and
upapatti-bhava, resultant tending towards rebirth. In other words, because of
our craving and attachment we act, now, do present actions (kamma-bhava), which
means we are preparing for future birth, rebirth (upapatti-bhava).
tanha, upadana and bhava also belong to the present period but not as resultants
due to actions in the past, but as present actions causing, giving rise to the
As we have said, by way of our present actions, doings. we are preparing
for future birth, rebirth, and so we come to the eleventh factor in the circle,
jati. Jati means born, arises. When we have finished this life then the next birth
will come. What will be born, what will arise? When the next birth comes the five
factors shown in the chart here as the present resultant section will, one after
another, arise, that is: vinnana, nama-rupa, salayatana. phassa, vedana., but
instead of saying these five we use only the one word, jati, born, meaning the
beginning of the future life. So the future result means that mind, body, bases,
contact and feeling, these five will be born.
Thus jati means the beginning
of this life. The twelfth factor in the circle, however, jaramarana, means the
end of one's life, jara meaning old age, gradually, and marana, death. As a natural
sequence there are some other states such as soka - soka means sorrow, because
we have been born we are subject to sorrow - lamentation, pain, grief and despair
will arise as a result of birth.
Well, altogether we see here twelve factors.
Two, avijja and sankhara, belong to the past; five, from vinnana to feeling, belong
to the present as a result of the past; tanha, upadana and bhava belong to the
present, causing the future; jati and jaramarana belong to the future, resulting
from present causes. From jati to jaramarana, just two things mentioned here,
but it means these five here on the chart, the five factors in the present resultant
section, from vinnana to vedana. The combination of these five factors are called
man and woman, and it is these five which are born, die and are reborn in interminable
continuity because of present actions.
Well, the time is up. I usually give
three talks on Paticcasamuppada, for to cover all the points in one talk is impossible;
what I have said gives only a very brief, most brief outline. To conclude our
talk, my talk, I should like to mention the real teaching of the Buddha, the advice
of the Buddha to get out of this wheel of life. If we do not follow it we shall
go round and round, without a limit
To unmask the great illusion is the labour
of man, so the Buddha advised us to get rid of our ignorance, to get rid of our
masks of delusion, illusion. To stand in equilibrium in the midst of worldly things
is the way of the Buddha. To contemplate life, but never to be enmeshed within
worldly life is the law of the Buddha; not to be attached, tangled in the whirlpool
of life, worldly life. To go forth out of worldly life into higher and spiritual
life is the advice of the Buddha. To be absorbed into the reality, the supreme
bliss of Nibbana is the end of the Buddhist way of life.
Nirvana, which is the Sanskrit form of the Pali word Nibbana, is a combination
of 'ni' and 'vana', 'ni' being a negative particle, and 'vana' meaning lusting
or craving. It is called Nibbana, for it is a departure from that craving; or
it may also be defined as the extinction of greed, hatred and ignorance.
whole world is in flames', says the Buddha. By what fire is it kindled? It is
kindled by the fire of greed, hatred and ignorance, by the fire of birth, old
age, death, pain, lamentation, sorrow, grief and despair.
It should not be
thought that Nibbana is a state of nothingness or annihilation just because we
cannot conceive it with our worldly knowledge; a blind man cannot say that light
does not exist just because he is unable to see it. There is the story, too, of
the fish who argued with his friend the turtle, asserting triumphantly that there
was no such thing as land.
Nibbana of the Buddhists is neither a mere nothingness
nor a state of annihilation, but exactly what it is no words can adequately express.
It is a dhamma which is uncreated and unformed, hence it is boundless, to be sought
after, happy, because it is free from all suffering, free from birth, death and
so on. Nibbana is not situated in any place, nor is it a sort of heaven where
a transcendental ego resides, it is a state which is dependent upon ourselves.
PATH TO NIBBANA
How is Nibbana to be attained? It is by following the Noble
Eightfold Path. which consists of morality (sila), concentration (samadhi) and
To refrain from all evil,
To do what is good.
This is the teaching of all the Buddhas.
or morality, is the first stage on the path to Nibbana. One should not kill or
cause injury to any living creature, one should be kind and compassionate towards
all, even the tiniest creature that crawls at one's feet. Refraining from stealing
anything, we should be honest in all our dealings. Abstaining from sexual misconduct
which debases the exalted nature of man, we should be pure and chaste. Shunning
false speech we should be truthful. Avoiding intoxicating drinks which promote
heedlessness, we should be sober and diligent.
If the spiritual man finds
these five precepts too elementary he may advance a step further and observe the
eight or even ten precepts.
It will be noticed that as the spiritual man proceeds
on this highway he is expected to live a life of celibacy, simplicity and self-control,
lest vigour and well-being might encourage indolence, and worldly bonds might
impede his progress. While the spiritual man progresses slowly and steadily it
is naturally easy for him to practise the four kinds of higher sila, namely, discipline
as prescribed by the Patimokkha, sense restraint, purity of conduct connected
with livelihood, and conduct in connection with the necessaries of life.
trodden the ground of sila, the progressing spiritual man reaches the practice
of samadhi, the culture of the mind, the second stage of this path. Samadhi is
concentration of the mind at will on one object.
The third stage on the path
to Nibbana is insight (panna) which enables the spiritual man to see things as
they truly are. With one pointedness of mind he looks at the world to get a correct
view of life, seeing nothing but the three characteristics. anicca (impermanence),
dukkha (suffering) and anatta (soullessness), wherever he casts his glance. He
does not find any genuine happiness in the world, for he sees that every form
of pleasure is only a prelude to pain. Whatever is impermanent is painful, thus
where change and sorrow prevail there cannot be permanent happiness.
spiritual man then takes one of the above three characteristics which appeals
to him most, and intently keeps on developing insight in that particular direction
until he realizes Nibbana for the first time in his life. Having at this ariyan
stage destroyed the first three of the ten fetters, namely, self-illusion (sakkyaditthi),
doubts (vicikiccha) and indulgence in rites, rituals and ceremonies, he is called
a sotapanna, one who has entered the stream that leads to Nibbana; he has forever
escaped the states of woe, and is assured of final enlightenment.
any earthly power.
More than all the joys of heaven.
More than rule o'er
all the world
Is the entrance to the Stream.
However, since he has not
destroyed the will to live, he will be reborn as a human being seven times at
most if he does not make quick further attainment.
Being encouraged by the
result of this distant glimpse of Nibbana the spiritual man develops deeper insight,
and weakening two more fetters, sense desire (kamaraga) and illwill (patigha),
he becomes a sakadagami, a once returner. He is called this because he will be
reborn on earth only once more if he does not attain arahatship.
When he reaches
the third ariyan stage the spiritual man is called an anagami (never returner),
at which stage he completely destroys the above two fetters. Hereafter he does
not return to this world, for he has no more desire for worldly pleasures, and
after death he is reborn in the Pure Abodes (Suddhavasa), a place which is exclusively
for anagamis and from whence they will become arahatta.
Now the earnest spiritual
man, encouraged by the great success of his endeavours, makes his final advance,
and destroying the remaining fetters, namely, desire for life in the Realm of
Form (ruparaga), desire for life in the Formless Realm (aruparaga), conceit (mana),
distraction (uddhacca) and ignorance (avijja), he becomes a perfected saint by
attaining arahatship. In this fourth supramundane stage he is called an arahat,
one whose heart becomes free from sensual passion, free from the passion for existence
and free from ignorance. He realizes that rebirth is exhausted, the holy life
is fulfilled, and what was to be done has been done; this is the highest, holiest
peace, the eradication of greed, hatred and ignorance. The arahat stands on heights
more than celestial, realizing the unutterable bliss of Nibbana. He no more arises,
no more passes away, no more trembles and no more desires; there is nothing in
him to cause re-arising. Because he arises no more, he will not grow old; growing
old no more he will not die again; dying no more he will not tremble, and trembling
no more he will not desire. Hence the purpose of the holy life does not consist
in acquiring alms, honour or fame, nor in gaining morality, concentration or wisdom.
The unshakable deliverance of the heart is the object of the holy life, this is
its essence and its goal.