Noble Eightfold Path
Way to the End of Suffering
- by Bhikkhu
ę 1994 Buddhist Publication Society
122 Pages - (PDF - 1.2 MB) - Free Download
Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu
One of the best explanations of
the Eightfold path in print today... The present
book aims at contributing towards a proper understanding
of the Noble Eightfold Path by investigating its eight factors
and their components to determine exactly what they involve.
Bhikkhu Bodhi is concise, using as the framework for his
exposition the Buddha's own words in explanation of the path
factors, as found in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon.
= back to table of contents)
essence of the Buddha's teaching can be summed up in two principles:
the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The first
covers the side of doctrine, and the primary response it elicits
is understanding; the second covers the side of discipline,
in the broadest sense of that word, and the primary response
it calls for is practice. In the structure of the teaching these
two principles lock together into an indivisible unity called
the dhamma-vinaya, the doctrine-and-discipline, or, in
brief, the Dhamma. The internal unity of the Dhamma is guaranteed
by the fact that the last of the Four Noble Truths, the truth
of the way, is the Noble Eightfold Path, while the first factor
of the Noble Eightfold Path, right view, is the understanding
of the Four Noble Truths. Thus the two principles penetrate
and include one another, the formula of the Four Noble Truths
containing the Eightfold Path and the Noble Eightfold Path containing
the Four Truths.
this integral unity, it would be pointless to pose the question
which of the two aspects of the Dhamma has greater value, the
doctrine or the path. But if we did risk the pointless by asking
that question, the answer would have to be the path. The path
claims primacy because it is precisely this that brings the
teaching to life. The path translates the Dhamma from a collection
of abstract formulas into a continually unfolding disclosure
of truth. It gives an outlet from the problem of suffering with
which the teaching starts. And it makes the teaching's goal,
liberation from suffering, accessible to us in our own experience,
where alone it takes on authentic meaning.
follow the Noble Eightfold Path is a matter of practice rather
than intellectual knowledge, but to apply the path correctly
it has to be properly understood. In fact, right understanding
of the path is itself a part of the practice. It is a facet
of right view, the first path factor, the forerunner and guide
for the rest of the path. Thus, though initial enthusiasm might
suggest that the task of intellectual comprehension may be shelved
as a bothersome distraction, mature consideration reveals it
to be quite essential to ultimate success in the practice.
present book aims at contributing towards a proper understanding
of the Noble Eightfold Path by investigating its eight factors
and their components to determine exactly what they involve.
I have attempted to be concise, using as the framework for exposition
the Buddha's own words in explanation of the path factors, as
found in the Sutta Pit@aka of the Pali Canon. To assist the
reader with limited access to primary sources even in translation,
I have tried to confine my selection of quotations as much as
possible (but not completely) to those found in Venerable Nyanatiloka's
classic anthology, The Word of the Buddha. In some cases
passages taken from that work have been slightly modified, to
accord with my own preferred renderings. For further amplification
of meaning I have sometimes drawn upon the commentaries; especially
in my accounts of concentration and wisdom (Chapters VII and
VIII) I have relied heavily on the Visuddhimagga (The
Path of Purification), a vast encyclopedic work which systematizes
the practice of the path in a detailed and comprehensive manner.
Limitations of space prevent an exhaustive treatment of each
factor. To compensate for this deficiency I have included a
list of recommended readings at the end, which the reader may
consult for more detailed explanations of individual path factors.
For full commitment to the practice of the path, however, especially
in its advanced stages of concentration and insight, it will
be extremely helpful to have contact with a properly qualified
references have been abbreviated as follows:
..... Digha Nikaya (number of sutta)
MN ..... Majjhima Nikaya (number of sutta)
SN ..... Samyutta Nikaya (chapter and number of sutta)
AN ..... Anguttara Nikaya (numerical collection and number
Dhp ..... Dhammapada (verse)
Vism ..... Visuddhimagga
to Vism. are to the chapter and section number of the translation
by Bhikkhu Đanamoli, The Path of Purification (BPS ed.
The Way to the End of Suffering
search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does
not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of
pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering
to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount
to more than something passively received from without. It has
to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces
through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the
world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot.
When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate
a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and
values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments
first such changes generally are not welcome. We try to deny
our vision and to smother our doubts; we struggle to drive away
the discontent with new pursuits. But the flame of inquiry,
once lit, continues to burn, and if we do not let ourselves
be swept away by superficial readjustments or slouch back into
a patched up version of our natural optimism, eventually the
original glimmering of insight will again flare up, again confront
us with our essential plight. It is precisely at that point,
with all escape routes blocked, that we are ready to seek a
way to bring our disquietude to an end. No longer can we continue
to drift complacently through life, driven blindly by our hunger
for sense pleasures and by the pressure of prevailing social
norms. A deeper reality beckons us; we have heard the call of
a more stable, more authentic happiness, and until we arrive
at our destination we cannot rest content.
it is just then that we find ourselves facing a new difficulty.
Once we come to recognize the need for a spiritual path we discover
that spiritual teachings are by no means homogeneous and mutually
compatible. When we browse through the shelves of humanity's
spiritual heritage, both ancient and contemporary, we do not
find a single tidy volume but a veritable bazaar of spiritual
systems and disciplines each offering themselves to us as the
highest, the fastest, the most powerful, or the most profound
solution to our quest for the Ultimate. Confronted with this
melange, we fall into confusion trying to size them up -- to
decide which is truly liberative, a real solution to our needs,
and which is a sidetrack beset with hidden flaws.
approach to resolving this problem that is popular today is
the eclectic one: to pick and choose from the various traditions
whatever seems amenable to our needs, welding together different
practices and techniques into a synthetic whole that is personally
satisfying. Thus one may combine Buddhist mindfulness meditation
with sessions of Hindu mantra recitation, Christian prayer with
Sufi dancing, Jewish Kabbala with Tibetan visualization exercises.
Eclecticism, however, though sometimes helpful in making a transition
from a predominantly worldly and materialistic way of life to
one that takes on a spiritual hue, eventually wears thin. While
it makes a comfortable halfway house, it is not comfortable
as a final vehicle.
are two interrelated flaws in eclecticism that account for its
ultimate inadequacy. One is that eclecticism compromises the
very traditions it draws upon. The great spiritual traditions
themselves do not propose their disciplines as independent techniques
that may be excised from their setting and freely recombined
to enhance the felt quality of our lives. They present them,
rather, as parts of an integral whole, of a coherent vision
regarding the fundamental nature of reality and the final goal
of the spiritual quest. A spiritual tradition is not a shallow
stream in which one can wet one's feet and then beat a quick
retreat to the shore. It is a mighty, tumultuous river which
would rush through the entire landscape of one's life, and if
one truly wishes to travel on it, one must be courageous enough
to launch one's boat and head out for the depths.
second defect in eclecticism follows from the first. As spiritual
practices are built upon visions regarding the nature of reality
and the final good, these visions are not mutually compatible.
When we honestly examine the teachings of these traditions,
we will find that major differences in perspective reveal themselves
to our sight, differences which cannot be easily dismissed as
alternative ways of saying the same thing. Rather, they point
to very different experiences constituting the supreme goal
and the path that must be trodden to reach that goal.
because of the differences in perspectives and practices that
the different spiritual traditions propose, once we decide that
we have outgrown eclecticism and feel that we are ready to make
a serious commitment to one particular path, we find ourselves
confronted with the challenge of choosing a path that will lead
us to true enlightenment and liberation. One cue to resolving
this dilemma is to clarify to ourselves our fundamental aim,
to determine what we seek in a genuinely liberative path. If
we reflect carefully, it will become clear that the prime requirement
is a way to the end of suffering. All problems ultimately can
be reduced to the problem of suffering; thus what we need is
a way that will end this problem finally and completely. Both
these qualifying words are important. The path has to lead to
a complete end of suffering, to an end of suffering in
all its forms, and to a final end of suffering, to bring
suffering to an irreversible stop.
here we run up against another question. How are we to find
such a path -- a path which has the capacity to lead us to the
full and final end of suffering? Until we actually follow a
path to its goal we cannot know with certainty where it leads,
and in order to follow a path to its goal we must place complete
trust in the efficacy of the path. The pursuit of a spiritual
path is not like selecting a new suit of clothes. To select
a new suit one need only try on a number of suits, inspect oneself
in the mirror, and select the suit in which one appears most
attractive. The choice of a spiritual path is closer to marriage:
one wants a partner for life, one whose companionship will prove
as trustworthy and durable as the pole star in the night sky.
with this new dilemma, we may think that we have reached a dead
end and conclude that we have nothing to guide us but personal
inclination, if not a flip of the coin. However, our selection
need not be as blind and uninformed as we imagine, for we do
have a guideline to help us. Since spiritual paths are generally
presented in the framework of a total teaching, we can evaluate
the effectiveness of any particular path by investigating the
teaching which expounds it.
making this investigation we can look to three criteria as standards
First, the teaching has to give a full and accurate picture
of the range of suffering. If the picture of suffering it gives
is incomplete or defective, then the path it sets forth will
most likely be flawed, unable to yield a satisfactory solution.
Just as an ailing patient needs a doctor who can make a full
and correct diagnosis of his illness, so in seeking release
from suffering we need a teaching that presents a reliable account
of our condition.
The second criterion calls for a correct analysis of
the causes giving rise to suffering. The teaching cannot stop
with a survey of the outward symptoms. It has to penetrate beneath
the symptoms to the level of causes, and to describe those causes
accurately. If a teaching makes a faulty causal analysis, there
is little likelihood that its treatment will succeed.
The third criterion pertains directly to the path itself.
It stipulates that the path which the teaching offers has to
remove suffering at its source. This means it must provide a
method to cut off suffering by eradicating its causes. If it
fails to bring about this root-level solution, its value is
ultimately nil. The path it prescribes might help to remove
symptoms and make us feel that all is well; but one afflicted
with a fatal disease cannot afford to settle for cosmetic surgery
when below the surface the cause of his malady continues to
sum up, we find three requirements for a teaching proposing
to offer a true path to the end of suffering: first, it has
to set forth a full and accurate picture of the range of suffering;
second, it must present a correct analysis of the causes of
suffering; and third, it must give us the means to eradicate
the causes of suffering.
is not the place to evaluate the various spiritual disciplines
in terms of these criteria. Our concern is only with the Dhamma,
the teaching of the Buddha, and with the solution this teaching
offers to the problem of suffering. That the teaching should
be relevant to this problem is evident from its very nature;
for it is formulated, not as a set of doctrines about the origin
and end of things commanding belief, but as a message of deliverance
from suffering claiming to be verifiable in our own experience.
Along with that message there comes a method of practice, a
way leading to the end of suffering. This way is the Noble Eightfold
Path (ariya atthangika magga). The Eightfold Path stands
at the very heart of the Buddha's teaching. It was the discovery
of the path that gave the Buddha's own enlightenment a universal
significance and elevated him from the status of a wise and
benevolent sage to that of a world teacher. To his own disciples
he was pre-eminently "the arouser of the path unarisen
before, the producer of the path not produced before, the declarer
of the path not declared before, the knower of the path, the
seer of the path, the guide along the path" (MN 108). And
he himself invites the seeker with the promise and challenge:
"You yourselves must strive. The Buddhas are only teachers.
The meditative ones who practise the path are released from
the bonds of evil" (Dhp. v. 276).
see the Noble Eightfold Path as a viable vehicle to liberation,
we have to check it out against our three criteria: to look
at the Buddha's account of the range of suffering, his analysis
of its causes, and the programme he offers as a remedy.
Range of Suffering
Buddha does not merely touch the problem of suffering tangentially;
he makes it, rather, the very cornerstone of his teaching. He
starts the Four Noble Truths that sum up his message with the
announcement that life is inseparably tied to something he calls
dukkha. The Pali word is often translated as suffering,
but it means something deeper than pain and misery. It refers
to a basic unsatisfactoriness running through our lives, the
lives of all but the enlightened. Sometimes this unsatisfactoriness
erupts into the open as sorrow, grief, disappointment, or despair;
but usually it hovers at the edge of our awareness as a vague
unlocalized sense that things are never quite perfect, never
fully adequate to our expectations of what they should be. This
fact of dukkha, the Buddha says, is the only real spiritual
problem. The other problems -- the theological and metaphysical
questions that have taunted religious thinkers through the centuries
-- he gently waves aside as "matters not tending to liberation."
What he teaches, he says, is just suffering and the ending of
suffering, dukkha and its cessation.
Buddha does not stop with generalities. He goes on to expose
the different forms that dukkha takes, both the evident
and the subtle. He starts with what is close at hand, with the
suffering inherent in the physical process of life itself. Here
dukkha shows up in the events of birth, aging, and death,
in our susceptibility to sickness, accidents, and injuries,
even in hunger and thirst. It appears again in our inner reactions
to disagreeable situations and events: in the sorrow, anger,
frustration, and fear aroused by painful separations, by unpleasant
encounters, by the failure to get what we want. Even our pleasures,
the Buddha says, are not immune from dukkha. They give
us happiness while they last, but they do not last forever;
eventually they must pass away, and when they go the loss leaves
us feeling deprived. Our lives, for the most part, are strung
out between the thirst for pleasure and the fear of pain. We
pass our days running after the one and running away from the
other, seldom enjoying the peace of contentment; real satisfaction
seems somehow always out of reach, just beyond the next horizon.
Then in the end we have to die: to give up the identity we spent
our whole life building, to leave behind everything and everyone
even death, the Buddha teaches, does not bring us to the end
of dukkha, for the life process does not stop with death.
When life ends in one place, with one body, the "mental
continuum," the individual stream of consciousness, springs
up again elsewhere with a new body as its physical support.
Thus the cycle goes on over and over -- birth, aging, and death
-- driven by the thirst for more existence. The Buddha declares
that this round of rebirths -- called samsara, "the
wandering" -- has been turning through beginningless time.
It is without a first point, without temporal origin. No matter
how far back in time we go we always find living beings -- ourselves
in previous lives -- wandering from one state of existence to
another. The Buddha describes various realms where rebirth can
take place: realms of torment, the animal realm, the human realm,
realms of celestial bliss. But none of these realms can offer
a final refuge. Life in any plane must come to an end. It is
impermanent and thus marked with that insecurity which is the
deepest meaning of dukkha. For this reason one aspiring
to the complete end of dukkha cannot rest content with
any mundane achievement, with any status, but must win emancipation
from the entire unstable whirl.
Causes of Suffering
teaching proposing to lead to the end of suffering must, as
we said, give a reliable account of its causal origination.
For if we want to put a stop to suffering, we have to stop it
where it begins, with its causes. To stop the causes requires
a thorough knowledge of what they are and how they work; thus
the Buddha devotes a sizeable section of his teaching to laying
bare "the truth of the origin of dukkha." The
origin he locates within ourselves, in a fundamental malady
that permeates our being, causing disorder in our own minds
and vitiating our relationships with others and with the world.
The sign of this malady can be seen in our proclivity to certain
unwholesome mental states called in Pali kilesas, usually
translated "defilements." The most basic defilements
are the triad of greed, aversion, and delusion. Greed (lobha)
is self-centered desire: the desire for pleasure and possessions,
the drive for survival, the urge to bolster the sense of ego
with power, status, and prestige. Aversion (dosa) signifies
the response of negation, expressed as rejection, irritation,
condemnation, hatred, enmity, anger, and violence. Delusion
(moha) means mental darkness: the thick coat of insensitivity
which blocks out clear understanding.
these three roots emerge the various other defilements -- conceit,
jealousy, ambition, lethargy, arrogance, and the rest -- and
from all these defilements together, the roots and the branches,
comes dukkha in its diverse forms: as pain and sorrow,
as fear and discontent, as the aimless drifting through the
round of birth and death. To gain freedom from suffering, therefore,
we have to eliminate the defilements. But the work of removing
the defilements has to proceed in a methodical way. It cannot
be accomplished simply by an act of will, by wanting them to
go away. The work must be guided by investigation. We have to
find out what the defilements depend upon and then see how it
lies within our power to remove their support.
Buddha teaches that there is one defilement which gives rise
to all the others, one root which holds them all in place. This
root is ignorance (avijja). Ignorance is not mere absence of knowledge, a lack of knowing
particular pieces of information. Ignorance can co-exist with
a vast accumulation of itemized knowledge, and in its own way
it can be tremendously shrewd and resourceful. As the basic
root of dukkha, ignorance is a fundamental darkness shrouding
the mind. Sometimes this ignorance operates in a passive manner,
merely obscuring correct understanding. At other times it takes
on an active role: it becomes the great deceiver, conjuring
up a mass of distorted perceptions and conceptions which the
mind grasps as attributes of the world, unaware that they are
its own deluded constructs.
these erroneous perceptions and ideas we find the soil that
nurtures the defilements. The mind catches sight of some possibility
of pleasure, accepts it at face value, and the result is greed.
Our hunger for gratification is thwarted, obstacles appear,
and up spring anger and aversion. Or we struggle over ambiguities,
our sight clouds, and we become lost in delusion. With this
we discover the breeding ground of dukkha: ignorance
issuing in the defilements, the defilements issuing in suffering.
As long as this causal matrix stands we are not yet beyond danger.
We might still find pleasure and enjoyment -- sense pleasures,
social pleasures, pleasures of the mind and heart. But no matter
how much pleasure we might experience, no matter how successful
we might be at dodging pain, the basic problem remains at the
core of our being and we continue to move within the bounds
Off the Causes of Suffering
free ourselves from suffering fully and finally we have to eliminate
it by the root, and that means to eliminate ignorance. But how
does one go about eliminating ignorance? The answer follows
clearly from the nature of the adversary. Since ignorance is
a state of not knowing things as they really are, what is needed
is knowledge of things as they really are. Not merely conceptual
knowledge, knowledge as idea, but perceptual knowledge, a knowing
which is also a seeing. This kind of knowing is called wisdom
(pa˝˝a). Wisdom helps to correct the distorting work
of ignorance. It enables us to grasp things as they are in actuality,
directly and immediately, free from the screen of ideas, views,
and assumptions our minds ordinarily set up between themselves
and the real.
eliminate ignorance we need wisdom, but how is wisdom to be
acquired? As indubitable knowledge of the ultimate nature of
things, wisdom cannot be gained by mere learning, by gathering
and accumulating a battery of facts. However, the Buddha says,
wisdom can be cultivated. It comes into being through a set
of conditions, conditions which we have the power to develop.
These conditions are actually mental factors, components of
consciousness, which fit together into a systematic structure
that can be called a path in the word's essential meaning: a
courseway for movement leading to a goal. The goal here is the
end of suffering, and the path leading to it is the Noble Eightfold
Path with its eight factors: right view, right intention, right
speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right
mindfulness, and right concentration.
Buddha calls this path the middle way (majjhima patipada).
It is the middle way because it steers clear of two extremes,
two misguided attempts to gain release from suffering. One is
the extreme of indulgence in sense pleasures, the attempt to
extinguish dissatisfaction by gratifying desire. This approach
gives pleasure, but the enjoyment won is gross, transitory,
and devoid of deep contentment. The Buddha recognized that sensual
desire can exercise a tight grip over the minds of human beings,
and he was keenly aware of how ardently attached people become
to the pleasures of the senses. But he also knew that this pleasure
is far inferior to the happiness that arises from renunciation,
and therefore he repeatedly taught that the way to the Ultimate
eventually requires the relinquishment of sensual desire. Thus
the Buddha describes the indulgence in sense pleasures as "low,
common, worldly, ignoble, not leading to the goal."
other extreme is the practice of self-mortification, the attempt
to gain liberation by afflicting the body. This approach may
stem from a genuine aspiration for deliverance, but it works
within the compass of a wrong assumption that renders the energy
expended barren of results. The error is taking the body to
be the cause of bondage, when the real source of trouble lies
in the mind -- the mind obsessed by greed, aversion, and delusion.
To rid the mind of these defilements the affliction of the body
is not only useless but self-defeating, for it is the impairment
of a necessary instrument. Thus the Buddha describes this second
extreme as "painful, ignoble, not leading to the goal."
from these two extreme approaches is the Noble Eightfold Path,
called the middle way, not in the sense that it effects a compromise
between the extremes, but in the sense that it transcends them
both by avoiding the errors that each involves. The path avoids
the extreme of sense indulgence by its recognition of the futility
of desire and its stress on renunciation. Desire and sensuality,
far from being means to happiness, are springs of suffering
to be abandoned as the requisite of deliverance. But the practice
of renunciation does not entail the tormenting of the body.
It consists in mental training, and for this the body must be
fit, a sturdy support for the inward work. Thus the body is
to be looked after well, kept in good health, while the mental
faculties are trained to generate the liberating wisdom. That
is the middle way, the Noble Eightfold Path, which "gives
rise to vision, gives rise to knowledge, and leads to peace,
to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana."
eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path are not steps to be
followed in sequence, one after another. They can be more aptly
described as components rather than as steps, comparable to
the intertwining strands of a single cable that requires the
contributions of all the strands for maximum strength. With
a certain degree of progress all eight factors can be present
simultaneously, each supporting the others. However, until that
point is reached, some sequence in the unfolding of the path
is inevitable. Considered from the standpoint of practical training,
the eight path factors divide into three groups: (i) the moral
discipline group (silakkhandha), made up of right speech,
right action, and right livelihood; (ii) the concentration group
(samadhikkhandha), made up of right effort, right mindfulness,
and right concentration; and (iii) the wisdom group (pa˝˝akkhandha),
made up of right view and right intention. These three groups
represent three stages of training: the training in the higher
moral discipline, the training in the higher consciousness,
and the training in the higher wisdom.
order of the three trainings is determined by the overall aim
and direction of the path. Since the final goal to which the
path leads, liberation from suffering, depends ultimately on
uprooting ignorance, the climax of the path must be the training
directly opposed to ignorance. This is the training in wisdom,
designed to awaken the faculty of penetrative understanding
which sees things "as they really are." Wisdom unfolds
by degrees, but even the faintest flashes of insight presuppose
as their basis a mind that has been concentrated, cleared of
disturbance and distraction. Concentration is achieved through
the training in the higher consciousness, the second division
of the path, which brings the calm and collectedness needed
to develop wisdom. But in order for the mind to be unified in
concentration, a check must be placed on the unwholesome dispositions
which ordinarily dominate its workings, since these dispositions
disperse the beam of attention and scatter it among a multitude
of concerns. The unwholesome dispositions continue to rule as
long as they are permitted to gain expression through the channels
of body and speech as bodily and verbal deeds. Therefore, at
the very outset of training, it is necessary to restrain the
faculties of action, to prevent them from becoming tools of
the defilements. This task is accomplished by the first division
of the path, the training in moral discipline. Thus the path
evolves through its three stages, with moral discipline as the
foundation for concentration, concentration the foundation for
wisdom, and wisdom the direct instrument for reaching liberation.
sometimes arises over an apparent inconsistency in the arrangement
of the path factors and the threefold training. Wisdom -- which
includes right view and right intention -- is the last stage
in the threefold training, yet its factors are placed at the
beginning of the path rather than at its end, as might be expected
according to the canon of strict consistency. The sequence of
the path factors, however, is not the result of a careless slip,
but is determined by an important logistical consideration,
namely, that right view and right intention of a preliminary
type are called for at the outset as the spur for entering the
threefold training. Right view provides the perspective for
practice, right intention the sense of direction. But the two
do not expire in this preparatory role. For when the mind has
been refined by the training in moral discipline and concentration,
it arrives at a superior right view and right intention, which
now form the proper training in the higher wisdom.
view is the forerunner of the entire path, the guide for all
the other factors. It enables us to understand our starting
point, our destination, and the successive landmarks to pass
as practice advances. To attempt to engage in the practice without
a foundation of right view is to risk getting lost in the futility
of undirected movement. Doing so might be compared to wanting
to drive someplace without consulting a roadmap or listening
to the suggestions of an experienced driver. One might get into
the car and start to drive, but rather than approaching closer
to one's destination, one is more likely to move farther away
from it. To arrive at the desired place one has to have some
idea of its general direction and of the roads leading to it.
Analogous considerations apply to the practice of the path,
which takes place in a framework of understanding established
by right view.
importance of right view can be gauged from the fact that our
perspectives on the crucial issues of reality and value have
a bearing that goes beyond mere theoretical convictions. They
govern our attitudes, our actions, our whole orientation to
existence. Our views might not be clearly formulated in our
mind; we might have only a hazy conceptual grasp of our beliefs.
But whether formulated or not, expressed or maintained in silence,
these views have a far-reaching influence. They structure our
perceptions, order our values, crystallize into the ideational
framework through which we interpret to ourselves the meaning
of our being in the world.
views then condition action. They lie behind our choices and
goals, and our efforts to turn these goals from ideals into
actuality. The actions themselves might determine consequences,
but the actions along with their consequences hinge on the views
from which they spring. Since views imply an "ontological
commitment," a decision on the question of what is real
and true, it follows that views divide into two classes, right
views and wrong views. The former correspond to what is real,
the latter deviate from the real and confirm the false in its
place. These two different kinds of views, the Buddha teaches,
lead to radically disparate lines of action, and thence to opposite
results. If we hold a wrong view, even if that view is vague,
it will lead us towards courses of action that eventuate in
suffering. On the other hand, if we adopt a right view, that
view will steer us towards right action, and thereby towards
freedom from suffering. Though our conceptual orientation towards
the world might seem innocuous and inconsequential, when looked
at closely it reveals itself to be the decisive determinant
of our whole course of future development. The Buddha himself
says that he sees no single factor so responsible for the arising
of unwholesome states of mind as wrong view, and no factor so
helpful for the arising of wholesome states of mind as right
view. Again, he says that there is no single factor so responsible
for the suffering of living beings as wrong view, and no factor
so potent in promoting the good of living beings as right view
its fullest measure right view involves a correct understanding
of the entire Dhamma or teaching of the Buddha, and thus its
scope is equal to the range of the Dhamma itself. But for practical
purposes two kinds of right view stand out as primary. One is
mundane right view, right view which operates within the confines
of the world. The other is supramundane right view, the superior
right view which leads to liberation from the world. The first
is concerned with the laws governing material and spiritual
progress within the round of becoming, with the principles that
lead to higher and lower states of existence, to mundane happiness
and suffering. The second is concerned with the principles essential
to liberation. It does not aim merely at spiritual progress
from life to life, but at emancipation from the cycle of recurring
lives and deaths.
right view involves a correct grasp of the law of kamma, the
moral efficacy of action. Its literal name is "right view
of the ownership of action" (kammassakata sammaditthi),
and it finds its standard formulation in the statement: "Beings
are the owners of their actions, the heirs of their actions;
they spring from their actions, are bound to their actions,
and are supported by their actions. Whatever deeds they do,
good or bad, of those they shall be heirs."
More specific formulations have also come down in the texts.
One stock passage, for example, affirms that virtuous actions
such as giving and offering alms have moral significance, that
good and bad deeds produce corresponding fruits, that one has
a duty to serve mother and father, that there is rebirth and
a world beyond the visible one, and that religious teachers
of high attainment can be found who expound the truth about
the world on the basis of their own superior realization.
understand the implications of this form of right view we first
have to examine the meaning of its key term, kamma. The
word kamma means action. For Buddhism the relevant kind
of action is volitional action, deeds expressive of morally
determinate volition, since it is volition that gives the action
ethical significance. Thus the Buddha expressly identifies action
with volition. In a discourse on the analysis of kamma he says:
"Monks, it is volition that I call action (kamma).
Having willed, one performs an action through body, speech,
or mind." The identification
of kamma with volition makes kamma essentially a mental event,
a factor originating in the mind which seeks to actualize the
mind's drives, dispositions, and purposes. Volition comes into
being through any of three channels -- body, speech, or mind
-- called the three doors of action (kammadvara). A volition
expressed through the body is a bodily action; a volition expressed
through speech is a verbal action; and a volition that issues
in thoughts, plans, ideas, and other mental states without gaining
outer expression is a mental action. Thus the one factor of
volition differentiates into three types of kamma according
to the channel through which it becomes manifest.
view requires more than a simple knowledge of the general meaning
of kamma. It is also necessary to understand: (i) the ethical
distinction of kamma into the unwholesome and the wholesome;
(ii) the principal cases of each type; and (iii) the roots from
which these actions spring. As expressed in a sutta: "When
a noble disciple understands what is kammically unwholesome,
and the root of unwholesome kamma, what is kammically wholesome,
and the root of wholesome kamma, then he has right view."
Taking these points in order, we find that kamma is first distinguished
as unwholesome (akusala) and wholesome (kusala).
Unwholesome kamma is action that is morally blameworthy, detrimental
to spiritual development, and conducive to suffering for oneself
and others. Wholesome kamma, on the other hand, is action that
is morally commendable, helpful to spiritual growth, and productive
of benefits for oneself and others.
Innumerable instances of unwholesome and wholesome kamma can
be cited, but the Buddha selects ten of each as primary. These
he calls the ten courses of unwholesome and wholesome action.
Among the ten in the two sets, three are bodily, four are verbal,
and three are mental. The ten courses of unwholesome kamma may
be listed as follows, divided by way of their doors of expression:
2. Taking what is not given
3. Wrong conduct in regard to sense pleasures
4. False speech
5. Slanderous speech
6. Harsh speech (vacikamma)
7. Idle chatter
9. Ill will
10. Wrong view
ten courses of wholesome kamma are the opposites of these: abstaining
from the first seven courses of unwholesome kamma, being free
from covetousness and ill will, and holding right view. Though
the seven cases of abstinence are exercised entirely by the
mind and do not necessarily entail overt action, they are still
designated wholesome bodily and verbal action because they centre
on the control of the faculties of body and speech.
Actions are distinguished as wholesome and unwholesome on the
basis of their underlying motives, called "roots"
(mula), which impart their moral quality to the volitions
concomitant with themselves. Thus kamma is wholesome or unwholesome
according to whether its roots are wholesome or unwholesome.
The roots are threefold for each set. The unwholesome roots
are the three defilements we already mentioned -- greed, aversion,
and delusion. Any action originating from these is an unwholesome
kamma. The three wholesome roots are their opposites, expressed
negatively in the old Indian fashion as non-greed (alobha),
non-aversion (adosa), and non-delusion (amoha).
Though these are negatively designated, they signify not merely
the absence of defilements but the corresponding virtues. Non-greed
implies renunciation, detachment, and generosity; non-aversion
implies loving-kindness, sympathy, and gentleness; and non-delusion
implies wisdom. Any action originating from these roots is a
most important feature of kamma is its capacity to produce results
corresponding to the ethical quality of the action. An immanent
universal law holds sway over volitional actions, bringing it
about that these actions issue in retributive consequences,
called vipaka, "ripenings," or phala,
"fruits." The law connecting actions with their fruits
works on the simple principle that unwholesome actions ripen
in suffering, wholesome actions in happiness. The ripening need
not come right away; it need not come in the present life at
all. Kamma can operate across the succession of lifetimes; it
can even remain dormant for aeons into the future. But whenever
we perform a volitional action, the volition leaves its imprint
on the mental continuum, where it remains as a stored up potency.
When the stored up kamma meets with conditions favourable to
its maturation, it awakens from its dormant state and triggers
off some effect that brings due compensation for the original
action. The ripening may take place in the present life, in
the next life, or in some life subsequent to the next. A kamma
may ripen by producing rebirth into the next existence, thus
determining the basic form of life; or it may ripen in the course
of a lifetime, issuing in our varied experiences of happiness
and pain, success and failure, progress and decline. But whenever
it ripens and in whatever way, the same principle invariably
holds: wholesome actions yield favourable results, unwholesome
actions yield unfavourable results.
recognize this principle is to hold right view of the mundane
kind. This view at once excludes the multiple forms of wrong
view with which it is incompatible. As it affirms that our actions
have an influence on our destiny continuing into future lives,
it opposes the nihilistic view which regards this life as our
only existence and holds that consciousness terminates with
death. As it grounds the distinction between good and evil,
right and wrong, in an objective universal principle, it opposes
the ethical subjectivism which asserts that good and evil are
only postulations of personal opinion or means to social control.
As it affirms that people can choose their actions freely, within
limits set by their conditions, it opposes the "hard deterministic"
line that our choices are always made subject to necessitation,
and hence that free volition is unreal and moral responsibility
of the implications of the Buddha's teaching on the right view
of kamma and its fruits run counter to popular trends in present-day
thought, and it is helpful to make these differences explicit.
The teaching on right view makes it known that good and bad,
right and wrong, transcend conventional opinions about what
is good and bad, what is right and wrong. An entire society
may be predicated upon a confusion of correct moral values,
and even though everyone within that society may applaud one
particular kind of action as right and condemn another kind
as wrong, this does not make them validly right and wrong. For
the Buddha moral standards are objective and invariable. While
the moral character of deeds is doubtlessly conditioned by the
circumstances under which they are performed, there are objective
criteria of morality against which any action, or any comprehensive
moral code, can be evaluated. This objective standard of morality
is integral to the Dhamma, the cosmic law of truth and righteousness.
Its transpersonal ground of validation is the fact that deeds,
as expressions of the volitions that engender them, produce
consequences for the agent, and that the correlations between
deeds and their consequences are intrinsic to the volitions
themselves. There is no divine judge standing above the cosmic
process who assigns rewards and punishments. Nevertheless, the
deeds themselves, through their inherent moral or immoral nature,
generate the appropriate results.
most people, the vast majority, the right view of kamma and
its results is held out of confidence, accepted on faith from
an eminent spiritual teacher who proclaims the moral efficacy
of action. But even when the principle of kamma is not personally
seen, it still remains a facet of right view. It is part
and parcel of right view because right view is concerned with
understanding -- with understanding our place in the total scheme
of things -- and one who accepts the principle that our volitional
actions possess a moral potency has, to that extent, grasped
an important fact pertaining to the nature of our existence.
However, the right view of the kammic efficacy of action need
not remain exclusively an article of belief screened behind
an impenetrable barrier. It can become a matter of direct seeing.
Through the attainment of certain states of deep concentration
it is possible to develop a special faculty called the "divine
eye" (dibbacakkhu), a super-sensory power of vision
that reveals things hidden from the eyes of flesh. When this
faculty is developed, it can be directed out upon the world
of living beings to investigate the workings of the kammic law.
With the special vision it confers one can then see for oneself,
with immediate perception, how beings pass away and re-arise
according to their kamma, how they meet happiness and suffering
through the maturation of their good and evil deeds.
right view of kamma and its fruits provides a rationale for
engaging in wholesome actions and attaining high status within
the round of rebirths, but by itself it does not lead to liberation.
It is possible for someone to accept the law of kamma yet still
limit his aims to mundane achievements. One's motive for performing
noble deeds might be the accumulation of meritorious kamma leading
to prosperity and success here and now, a fortunate rebirth
as a human being, or the enjoyment of celestial bliss in the
heavenly worlds. There is nothing within the logic of kammic
causality to impel the urge to transcend the cycle of kamma
and its fruit. The impulse to deliverance from the entire round
of becoming depends upon the acquisition of a different and
deeper perspective, one which yields insight into the inherent
defectiveness of all forms of samsaric existence, even the most
superior right view leading to liberation is the understanding
of the Four Noble Truths. It is this right view that figures
as the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path in the proper
sense: as the noble right view. Thus the Buddha defines
the path factor of right view expressly in terms of the four
truths: "What now is right view? It is understanding of
suffering (dukkha), understanding of the origin of suffering,
understanding of the cessation of suffering, understanding of
the way leading to the cessation to suffering."
The Eightfold Path starts with a conceptual understanding of
the Four Noble Truths apprehended only obscurely through the
media of thought and reflection. It reaches its climax in a
direct intuition of those same truths, penetrated with a clarity
tantamount to enlightenment. Thus it can be said that the right
view of the Four Noble Truths forms both the beginning and the
culmination of the way to the end of suffering.
first noble truth is the truth of suffering (dukkha),
the inherent unsatisfactoriness of existence, revealed in the
impermanence, pain, and perpetual incompleteness intrinsic to
all forms of life.
is the noble truth of suffering. Birth is suffering; aging is
suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering; association
with the unpleasant is suffering; separation from the pleasant
is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief,
the five aggregates of clinging are suffering.
last statement makes a comprehensive claim that calls for some
attention. The five aggregates of clinging (pa˝cupadanakkandha)
are a classificatory scheme for understanding the nature of
our being. What we are, the Buddha teaches, is a set of five
aggregates -- material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations,
and consciousness -- all connected with clinging. We are the
five and the five are us. Whatever we identify with, whatever
we hold to as our self, falls within the set of five aggregates.
Together these five aggregates generate the whole array of thoughts,
emotions, ideas, and dispositions in which we dwell, "our
world." Thus the Buddha's declaration that the five aggregates
are dukkha in effect brings all experience, our entire
existence, into the range of dukkha.
here the question arises: Why should the Buddha say that the
five aggregates are dukkha? The reason he says that the
five aggregates are dukkha is that they are impermanent.
They change from moment to moment, arise and fall away, without
anything substantial behind them persisting through the change.
Since the constituent factors of our being are always changing,
utterly devoid of a permanent core, there is nothing we can
cling to in them as a basis for security. There is only a constantly
disintegrating flux which, when clung to in the desire for permanence,
brings a plunge into suffering.
second noble truth points out the cause of dukkha. From
the set of defilements which eventuate in suffering, the Buddha
singles out craving (tanha) as the dominant and most
pervasive cause, "the origin of suffering."
is the noble truth of the origin of suffering. It is this craving
which produces repeated existence, is bound up with delight
and lust, and seeks pleasure here and there, namely, craving
for sense pleasures, craving for existence, and craving for
third noble truth simply reverses this relationship of origination.
If craving is the cause of dukkha, then to be free from
dukkha we have to eliminate craving. Thus the Buddha
is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering. It is the
complete fading away and cessation of this craving, its forsaking
and abandonment, liberation and detachment from it.
state of perfect peace that comes when craving is eliminated
is Nibbana (nirvana), the unconditioned state
experienced while alive with the extinguishing of the flames
of greed, aversion, and delusion. The fourth noble truth shows
the way to reach the end of dukkha, the way to the realization
of Nibbana. That way is the Noble Eightfold Path itself.
right view of the Four Noble Truths develops in two stages.
The first is called the right view that accords with the truths
(saccanulomika samma ditthi); the second, the right view
that penetrates the truths (saccapativedha samma ditthi).
To acquire the right view that accords with the truths requires
a clear understanding of their meaning and significance in our
lives. Such an understanding arises first by learning the truths
and studying them. Subsequently it is deepened by reflecting
upon them in the light of experience until one gains a strong
conviction as to their veracity.
even at this point the truths have not been penetrated, and
thus the understanding achieved is still defective, a matter
of concept rather than perception. To arrive at the experiential
realization of the truths it is necessary to take up the practice
of meditation -- first to strengthen the capacity for sustained
concentration, then to develop insight. Insight arises by contemplating
the five aggregates, the factors of existence, in order to discern
their real characteristics. At the climax of such contemplation
the mental eye turns away from the conditioned phenomena comprised
in the aggregates and shifts its focus to the unconditioned
state, Nibbana, which becomes accessible through the deepened
faculty of insight. With this shift, when the mind's eye sees
Nibbana, there takes place a simultaneous penetration of all
Four Noble Truths. By seeing Nibbana, the state beyond dukkha,
one gains a perspective from which to view the five aggregates
and see that they are dukkha simply because they are
conditioned, subject to ceaseless change. At the same moment
Nibbana is realized, craving stops; the understanding then dawns
that craving is the true origin of dukkha. When Nibbana
is seen, it is realized to be the state of peace, free from
the turmoil of becoming. And because this experience has been
reached by practising the Noble Eightfold Path, one knows for
oneself that the Noble Eightfold Path is truly the way to the
end of dukkha.
right view that penetrates the Four Noble Truths comes at the
end of the path, not at the beginning. We have to start with
the right view conforming to the truths, acquired through learning
and fortified through reflection. This view inspires us to take
up the practice, to embark on the threefold training in moral
discipline, concentration, and wisdom. When the training matures,
the eye of wisdom opens by itself, penetrating the truths and
freeing the mind from bondage.
second factor of the path is called in Pali samma sankappa,
which we will translate as "right intention." The
term is sometimes translated as "right thought," a
rendering that can be accepted if we add the proviso that in
the present context the word "thought" refers specifically
to the purposive or conative aspect of mental activity, the
cognitive aspect being covered by the first factor, right view.
It would be artificial, however, to insist too strongly on the
division between these two functions. From the Buddhist perspective,
the cognitive and purposive sides of the mind do not remain
isolated in separate compartments but intertwine and interact
in close correlation. Emotional predilections influence views,
and views determine predilections. Thus a penetrating view of
the nature of existence, gained through deep reflection and
validated through investigation, brings with it a restructuring
of values which sets the mind moving towards goals commensurate
with the new vision. The application of mind needed to achieve
those goals is what is meant by right intention.
Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention
of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention
of harmlessness. The three
are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention: intention
governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and intention
governed by harmfulness. Each kind of right intention counters the
corresponding kind of wrong intention. The intention of renunciation
counters the intention of desire, the intention of good will
counters the intention of ill will, and the intention of harmlessness
counters the intention of harmfulness.
Buddha discovered this twofold division of thought in the period
prior to his Enlightenment (see MN 19). While he was striving
for deliverance, meditating in the forest, he found that his
thoughts could be distributed into two different classes. In
one he put thoughts of desire, ill will, and harmfulness, in
the other thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness.
Whenever he noticed thoughts of the first kind arise in him,
he understood that those thoughts lead to harm for oneself and
others, obstruct wisdom, and lead away from Nibbana. Reflecting
in this way he expelled such thoughts from his mind and brought
them to an end. But whenever thoughts of the second kind arose,
he understood those thoughts to be beneficial, conducive to
the growth of wisdom, aids to the attainment of Nibbana. Thus
he strengthened those thoughts and brought them to completion.
intention claims the second place in the path, between right
view and the triad of moral factors that begins with right speech,
because the mind's intentional function forms the crucial link
connecting our cognitive perspective with our modes of active
engagement in the world. On the one side actions always point
back to the thoughts from which they spring. Thought is the
forerunner of action, directing body and speech, stirring them
into activity, using them as its instruments for expressing
its aims and ideals. These aims and ideals, our intentions,
in turn point back a further step to the prevailing views. When
wrong views prevail, the outcome is wrong intention giving rise
to unwholesome actions. Thus one who denies the moral efficacy
of action and measures achievement in terms of gain and status
will aspire to nothing but gain and status, using whatever means
he can to acquire them. When such pursuits become widespread,
the result is suffering, the tremendous suffering of individuals,
social groups, and nations out to gain wealth, position, and
power without regard for consequences. The cause for the endless
competition, conflict, injustice, and oppression does not lie
outside the mind. These are all just manifestations of intentions,
outcroppings of thoughts driven by greed, by hatred, by delusion.
when the intentions are right, the actions will be right, and
for the intentions to be right the surest guarantee is right
views. One who recognizes the law of kamma, that actions bring
retributive consequences, will frame his pursuits to accord
with this law; thus his actions, expressive of his intentions,
will conform to the canons of right conduct. The Buddha succinctly
sums up the matter when he says that for a person who holds
a wrong view, his deeds, words, plans, and purposes grounded
in that view will lead to suffering, while for a person who
holds right view, his deeds, words, plans, and purposes grounded
in that view will lead to happiness.
the most important formulation of right view is the understanding
of the Four Noble Truths, it follows that this view should be
in some way determinative of the content of right intention.
This we find to be in fact the case. Understanding the four
truths in relation to one's own life gives rise to the intention
of renunciation; understanding them in relation to other beings
gives rise to the other two right intentions. When we see how
our own lives are pervaded by dukkha, and how this dukkha
derives from craving, the mind inclines to renunciation -- to
abandoning craving and the objects to which it binds us. Then,
when we apply the truths in an analogous way to other living
beings, the contemplation nurtures the growth of good will and
harmlessness. We see that, like ourselves, all other living
beings want to be happy, and again that like ourselves they
are subject to suffering. The consideration that all beings
seek happiness causes thoughts of good will to arise -- the
loving wish that they be well, happy, and peaceful. The consideration
that beings are exposed to suffering causes thoughts of harmlessness
to arise -- the compassionate wish that they be free from suffering.
moment the cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path begins, the
factors of right view and right intention together start to
counteract the three unwholesome roots. Delusion, the primary
cognitive defilement, is opposed by right view, the nascent
seed of wisdom. The complete eradication of delusion will only
take place when right view is developed to the stage of full
realization, but every flickering of correct understanding contributes
to its eventual destruction. The other two roots, being emotive
defilements, require opposition through the redirecting of intention,
and thus meet their antidotes in thoughts of renunciation, good
will, and harmlessness.
greed and aversion are deeply grounded, they do not yield easily;
however, the work of overcoming them is not impossible if an
effective strategy is employed. The path devised by the Buddha
makes use of an indirect approach: it proceeds by tackling the
thoughts to which these defilements give rise. Greed and aversion
surface in the form of thoughts, and thus can be eroded by a
process of "thought substitution," by replacing them
with the thoughts opposed to them. The intention of renunciation
provides the remedy to greed. Greed comes to manifestation in
thoughts of desire -- as sensual, acquisitive, and possessive
thoughts. Thoughts of renunciation spring from the wholesome
root of non-greed, which they activate whenever they are cultivated.
Since contrary thoughts cannot coexist, when thoughts of renunciation
are roused, they dislodge thoughts of desire, thus causing non-greed
to replace greed. Similarly, the intentions of good will and
harmlessness offer the antidote to aversion. Aversion comes
to manifestation either in thoughts of ill will -- as angry,
hostile, or resentful thoughts; or in thoughts of harming --
as the impulses to cruelty, aggression, and destruction. Thoughts
of good will counter the former outflow of aversion, thoughts
of harmlessness the latter outflow, in this way excising the
unwholesome root of aversion itself.
Intention of Renunciation
Buddha describes his teaching as running contrary to the way
of the world. The way of the world is the way of desire, and
the unenlightened who follow this way flow with the current
of desire, seeking happiness by pursuing the objects in which
they imagine they will find fulfilment. The Buddha's message
of renunciation states exactly the opposite: the pull of desire
is to be resisted and eventually abandoned. Desire is to be
abandoned not because it is morally evil but because it is a
root of suffering. Thus renunciation, turning away from craving and its drive
for gratification, becomes the key to happiness, to freedom
from the hold of attachment.
Buddha does not demand that everyone leave the household life
for the monastery or ask his followers to discard all sense
enjoyments on the spot. The degree to which a person renounces
depends on his or her disposition and situation. But what remains
as a guiding principle is this: that the attainment of deliverance
requires the complete eradication of craving, and progress along
the path is accelerated to the extent that one overcomes craving.
Breaking free from domination by desire may not be easy, but
the difficulty does not abrogate the necessity. Since craving
is the origin of dukkha, putting an end to dukkha depends on
eliminating craving, and that involves directing the mind to
it is just at this point, when one tries to let go of attachment,
that one encounters a powerful inner resistance. The mind does
not want to relinquish its hold on the objects to which it has
become attached. For such a long time it has been accustomed
to gaining, grasping, and holding, that it seems impossible
to break these habits by an act of will. One might agree to
the need for renunciation, might want to leave attachment behind,
but when the call is actually sounded the mind recoils and continues
to move in the grip of its desires.
the problem arises of how to break the shackles of desire. The
Buddha does not offer as a solution the method of repression
-- the attempt to drive desire away with a mind full of fear
and loathing. This approach does not resolve the problem but
only pushes it below the surface, where it continues to thrive.
The tool the Buddha holds out to free the mind from desire is
understanding. Real renunciation is not a matter of compelling
ourselves to give up things still inwardly cherished, but of
changing our perspective on them so that they no longer bind
us. When we understand the nature of desire, when we investigate
it closely with keen attention, desire falls away by itself,
without need for struggle.
understand desire in such a way that we can loosen its hold,
we need to see that desire is invariably bound up with dukkha.
The whole phenomenon of desire, with its cycle of wanting and
gratification, hangs on our way of seeing things. We remain
in bondage to desire because we see it as our means to happiness.
If we can look at desire from a different angle, its force will
be abated, resulting in the move towards renunciation. What
is needed to alter perception is something called "wise
consideration" (yoniso manasikara). Just as perception
influences thought, so thought can influence perception. Our
usual perceptions are tinged with "unwise consideration"
(ayoniso manasikara). We ordinarily look only at the
surfaces of things, scan them in terms of our immediate interests
and wants; only rarely do we dig into the roots of our involvements
or explore their long-range consequences. To set this straight
calls for wise consideration: looking into the hidden undertones
to our actions, exploring their results, evaluating the worthiness
of our goals. In this investigation our concern must not be
with what is pleasant but with what is true. We have to be prepared
and willing to discover what is true even at the cost of our
comfort. For real security always lies on the side of truth,
not on the side of comfort.
desire is scrutinized closely, we find that it is constantly
shadowed by dukkha. Sometimes dukkha appears as
pain or irritation; often it lies low as a constant strain of
discontent. But the two -- desire and dukkha -- are inseparable
concomitants. We can confirm this for ourselves by considering
the whole cycle of desire. At the moment desire springs up it
creates in us a sense of lack, the pain of want. To end this
pain we struggle to fulfil the desire. If our effort fails,
we experience frustration, disappointment, sometimes despair.
But even the pleasure of success is not unqualified. We worry
that we might lose the ground we have gained. We feel driven
to secure our position, to safeguard our territory, to gain
more, to rise higher, to establish tighter controls. The demands
of desire seem endless, and each desire demands the eternal:
it wants the things we get to last forever. But all the objects
of desire are impermanent. Whether it be wealth, power, position,
or other persons, separation is inevitable, and the pain that
accompanies separation is proportional to the force of attachment:
strong attachment brings much suffering; little attachment brings
little suffering; no attachment brings no suffering.
the dukkha inherent in desire is one way to incline the
mind to renunciation. Another way is to contemplate directly
the benefits flowing from renunciation. To move from desire
to renunciation is not, as might be imagined, to move from happiness
to grief, from abundance to destitution. It is to pass from
gross, entangling pleasures to an exalted happiness and peace,
from a condition of servitude to one of self-mastery. Desire
ultimately breeds fear and sorrow, but renunciation gives fearlessness
and joy. It promotes the accomplishment of all three stages
of the threefold training: it purifies conduct, aids concentration,
and nourishes the seed of wisdom. The entire course of practice
from start to finish can in fact be seen as an evolving process
of renunciation culminating in Nibbana as the ultimate stage
of relinquishment, "the relinquishing of all foundations
of existence" (sabb'upadhipatinissagga).
we methodically contemplate the dangers of desire and the benefits
of renunciation, gradually we steer our mind away from the domination
of desire. Attachments are shed like the leaves of a tree, naturally
and spontaneously. The changes do not come suddenly, but when
there is persistent practice, there is no doubt that they will
come. Through repeated contemplation one thought knocks away
another, the intention of renunciation dislodges the intention
Intention of Good Will
intention of good will opposes the intention of ill will, thoughts
governed by anger and aversion. As in the case of desire, there
are two ineffective ways of handling ill will. One is to yield
to it, to express the aversion by bodily or verbal action. This
approach releases the tension, helps drive the anger "out
of one's system," but it also poses certain dangers. It
breeds resentment, provokes retaliation, creates enemies, poisons
relationships, and generates unwholesome kamma; in the end,
the ill will does not leave the "system" after all,
but instead is driven down to a deeper level where it continues
to vitiate one's thoughts and conduct. The other approach, repression,
also fails to dispel the destructive force of ill will. It merely
turns that force around and pushes it inward, where it becomes
transmogrified into self-contempt, chronic depression, or a
tendency to irrational outbursts of violence.
remedy the Buddha recommends to counteract ill will, especially
when the object is another person, is a quality called in Pali
metta. This word derives from another word meaning "friend,"
but metta signifies much more than ordinary friendliness.
I prefer to translate it by the compound "lovingkindness,"
which best captures the intended sense: an intense feeling of
selfless love for other beings radiating outwards as a heartfelt
concern for their well-being and happiness. Metta is
not just sentimental good will, nor is it a conscientious response
to a moral imperative or divine command. It must become a deep
inner feeling, characterized by spontaneous warmth rather than
by a sense of obligation. At its peak metta rises to
the heights of a brahmavihara, a "divine dwelling,"
a total way of being centred on the radiant wish for the welfare
of all living beings.
kind of love implied by metta should be distinguished
from sensual love as well as from the love involved in personal
affection. The first is a form of craving, necessarily self-directed,
while the second still includes a degree of attachment: we love
a person because that person gives us pleasure, belongs to our
family or group, or reinforces our own self-image. Only rarely
does the feeling of affection transcend all traces of ego-reference,
and even then its scope is limited. It applies only to a certain
person or group of people while excluding others.
love involved in metta, in contrast, does not hinge on
particular relations to particular persons. Here the reference
point of self is utterly omitted. We are concerned only with
suffusing others with a mind of lovingkindness, which ideally
is to be developed into a universal state, extended to all living
beings without discriminations or reservations. The way to impart
to metta this universal scope is to cultivate it as an
exercise in meditation. Spontaneous feelings of good will occur
too sporadically and are too limited in range to be relied on
as the remedy for aversion. The idea of deliberately developing
love has been criticized as contrived, mechanical, and calculated.
Love, it is said, can only be genuine when it is spontaneous,
arisen without inner prompting or effort. But it is a Buddhist
thesis that the mind cannot be commanded to love spontaneously;
it can only be shown the means to develop love and enjoined
to practise accordingly. At first the means has to be employed
with some deliberation, but through practice the feeling of
love becomes ingrained, grafted onto the mind as a natural and
method of development is metta-bhavana, the meditation
on lovingkindness, one of the most important kinds of Buddhist
meditation. The meditation begins with the development of lovingkindness
towards oneself. It is suggested
that one take oneself as the first object of metta because
true lovingkindness for others only becomes possible when one
is able to feel genuine lovingkindness for oneself. Probably
most of the anger and hostility we direct to others springs
from negative attitudes we hold towards ourselves. When metta
is directed inwards towards oneself, it helps to melt down the
hardened crust created by these negative attitudes, permitting
a fluid diffusion of kindness and sympathy outwards.
one has learned to kindle the feeling of metta towards
oneself, the next step is to extend it to others. The extension
of metta hinges on a shift in the sense of identity,
on expanding the sense of identity beyond its ordinary confines
and learning to identify with others. The shift is purely psychological
in method, entirely free from theological and metaphysical postulates,
such as that of a universal self immanent in all beings. Instead,
it proceeds from a simple, straightforward course of reflection
which enables us to share the subjectivity of others and experience
the world (at least imaginatively) from the standpoint of their
own inwardness. The procedure starts with oneself. If we look
into our own mind, we find that the basic urge of our being
is the wish to be happy and free from suffering. Now, as soon
as we see this in ourselves, we can immediately understand that
all living beings share the same basic wish. All want to be
well, happy, and secure. To develop metta towards others,
what is to be done is to imaginatively share their own innate
wish for happiness. We use our own desire for happiness as the
key, experience this desire as the basic urge of others, then
come back to our own position and extend to them the wish that
they may achieve their ultimate objective, that they may be
well and happy.
methodical radiation of metta is practised first by directing
metta to individuals representing certain groups. These
groups are set in an order of progressive remoteness from oneself.
The radiation begins with a dear person, such as a parent or
teacher, then moves on to a friend, then to a neutral person,
then finally to a hostile person. Though the types are defined
by their relation to oneself, the love to be developed is not
based on that relation but on each person's common aspiration
for happiness. With each individual one has to bring his (or
her) image into focus and radiate the thought: "May he
(she) be well! May he (she) be happy! May he (she) be peaceful!"
Only when one succeeds in generating a warm feeling of good
will and kindness towards that person should one turn to the
next. Once one gains some success with individuals, one can
then work with larger units. One can try developing metta
towards all friends, all neutral persons, all hostile persons.
Then metta can be widened by directional suffusion, proceeding
in the various directions -- east, south, west, north, above,
below -- then it can be extended to all beings without distinction.
In the end one suffuses the entire world with a mind of lovingkindness
"vast, sublime, and immeasurable, without enmity, without
Intention of Harmlessness
intention of harmlessness is thought guided by compassion (karuna),
aroused in opposition to cruel, aggressive, and violent thoughts.
Compassion supplies the complement to lovingkindness. Whereas
lovingkindness has the characteristic of wishing for the happiness
and welfare of others, compassion has the characteristic of
wishing that others be free from suffering, a wish to be extended
without limits to all living beings. Like metta, compassion
arises by entering into the subjectivity of others, by sharing
their interiority in a deep and total way. It springs up by
considering that all beings, like ourselves, wish to be free
from suffering, yet despite their wishes continue to be harassed
by pain, fear, sorrow, and other forms of dukkha.
develop compassion as a meditative exercise, it is most effective
to start with somebody who is actually undergoing suffering,
since this provides the natural object for compassion. One contemplates
this person's suffering, either directly or imaginatively, then
reflects that like oneself, he (she) also wants to be free from
suffering. The thought should be repeated, and contemplation
continually exercised, until a strong feeling of compassion
swells up in the heart. Then, using that feeling as a standard,
one turns to different individuals, considers how they are each
exposed to suffering, and radiates the gentle feeling of compassion
out to them. To increase the breadth and intensity of compassion
it is helpful to contemplate the various sufferings to which
living beings are susceptible. A useful guideline to this extension
is provided by the first noble truth, with its enumeration of
the different aspects of dukkha. One contemplates beings
as subject to old age, then as subject to sickness, then to
death, then to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair,
and so forth.
a high level of success has been achieved in generating compassion
by the contemplation of beings who are directly afflicted by
suffering, one can then move on to consider people who are presently
enjoying happiness which they have acquired by immoral means.
One might reflect that such people, despite their superficial
fortune, are doubtlessly troubled deep within by the pangs of
conscience. Even if they display no outward signs of inner distress,
one knows that they will eventually reap the bitter fruits of
their evil deeds, which will bring them intense suffering. Finally,
one can widen the scope of one's contemplation to include all
living beings. One should contemplate all beings as subject
to the universal suffering of samsara, driven by their
greed, aversion, and delusion through the round of repeated
birth and death. If compassion is initially difficult to arouse
towards beings who are total strangers, one can strengthen it
by reflecting on the Buddha's dictum that in this beginningless
cycle of rebirths, it is hard to find even a single being who
has not at some time been one's own mother or father, sister
or brother, son or daughter.
sum up, we see that the three kinds of right intention -- of
renunciation, good will, and harmlessness -- counteract the
three wrong intentions of desire, ill will, and harmfulness.
The importance of putting into practice the contemplations leading
to the arising of these thoughts cannot be overemphasized. The
contemplations have been taught as methods for cultivation,
not mere theoretical excursions. To develop the intention of
renunciation we have to contemplate the suffering tied up with
the quest for worldly enjoyment; to develop the intention of
good will we have to consider how all beings desire happiness;
to develop the intention of harmlessness we have to consider
how all beings wish to be free from suffering. The unwholesome
thought is like a rotten peg lodged in the mind; the wholesome
thought is like a new peg suitable to replace it. The actual
contemplation functions as the hammer used to drive out the
old peg with the new one. The work of driving in the new peg
is practice -- practising again and again, as often as is necessary
to reach success. The Buddha gives us his assurance that the
victory can be achieved. He says that whatever one reflects
upon frequently becomes the inclination of the mind. If one
frequently thinks sensual, hostile, or harmful thoughts, desire,
ill will, and harmfulness become the inclination of the mind.
If one frequently thinks in the opposite way, renunciation,
good will, and harmlessness become the inclination of the mind
(MN 19). The direction we take always comes back to ourselves,
to the intentions we generate moment by moment in the course
of our lives.
Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood
(Samma Vaca, Samma Kammanta, Samma Ajiva)
next three path factors -- right speech, right action, and right
livelihood -- may be treated together, as collectively they
make up the first of the three divisions of the path, the division
of moral discipline (silakkhandha). Though the principles
laid down in this section restrain immoral actions and promote
good conduct, their ultimate purpose is not so much ethical
as spiritual. They are not prescribed merely as guides to action,
but primarily as aids to mental purification. As a necessary
measure for human well-being, ethics has its own justification
in the Buddha's teaching and its importance cannot be underrated.
But in the special context of the Noble Eightfold Path ethical
principles are subordinate to the path's governing goal, final
deliverance from suffering. Thus for the moral training to become
a proper part of the path, it has to be taken up under the tutelage
of the first two factors, right view and right intention, and
to lead beyond to the trainings in concentration and wisdom.
the training in moral discipline is listed first among the three
groups of practices, it should not be regarded lightly. It is
the foundation for the entire path, essential for the success
of the other trainings. The Buddha himself frequently urged
his disciples to adhere to the rules of discipline, "seeing
danger in the slightest fault." One time, when a monk approached
the Buddha and asked for the training in brief, the Buddha told
him: "First establish yourself in the starting point of
wholesome states, that is, in purified moral discipline and
in right view. Then, when your moral discipline is purified
and your view straight, you should practise the four foundations
of mindfulness" (SN 47:3).
Pali word we have been translating as "moral discipline,"
sila, appears in the texts with several overlapping meanings
all connected with right conduct. In some contexts it means
action conforming to moral principles, in others the principles
themselves, in still others the virtuous qualities of character
that result from the observance of moral principles. Sila
in the sense of precepts or principles represents the formalistic
side of the ethical training, sila as virtue the animating
spirit, and sila as right conduct the expression of virtue
in real-life situations. Often sila is formally defined
as abstinence from unwholesome bodily and verbal action. This
definition, with its stress on outer action, appears superficial.
Other explanations, however, make up for the deficiency and
reveal that there is more to sila than is evident at
first glance. The Abhidhamma, for example, equates sila
with the mental factors of abstinence (viratiyo) -- right
speech, right action, and right livelihood -- an equation which
makes it clear that what is really being cultivated through
the observance of moral precepts is the mind. Thus while the
training in sila brings the "public" benefit
of inhibiting socially detrimental actions, it entails the personal
benefit of mental purification, preventing the defilements from
dictating to us what lines of conduct we should follow.
English word "morality" and its derivatives suggest
a sense of obligation and constraint quite foreign to the Buddhist
conception of sila; this connotation probably enters
from the theistic background to Western ethics. Buddhism, with
its non-theistic framework, grounds its ethics, not on the notion
of obedience, but on that of harmony. In fact, the commentaries
explain the word sila by another word, samadhana,
meaning "harmony" or "coordination."
observance of sila leads to harmony at several levels
-- social, psychological, kammic, and contemplative. At the
social level the principles of sila help to establish
harmonious interpersonal relations, welding the mass of differently
constituted members of society with their own private interests
and goals into a cohesive social order in which conflict, if
not utterly eliminated, is at least reduced. At the psychological
level sila brings harmony to the mind, protection from
the inner split caused by guilt and remorse over moral transgressions.
At the kammic level the observance of sila ensures harmony
with the cosmic law of kamma, hence favourable results in the
course of future movement through the round of repeated birth
and death. And at the fourth level, the contemplative, sila
helps establish the preliminary purification of mind to be completed,
in a deeper and more thorough way, by the methodical development
of serenity and insight.
briefly defined, the factors of moral training are usually worded
negatively, in terms of abstinence. But there is more to sila
than refraining from what is wrong. Each principle embedded
in the precepts, as we will see, actually has two aspects, both
essential to the training as a whole. One is abstinence from
the unwholesome, the other commitment to the wholesome; the
former is called "avoidance" (varitta) and
the latter "performance" (caritta). At the
outset of training the Buddha stresses the aspect of avoidance.
He does so, not because abstinence from the unwholesome is sufficient
in itself, but to establish the steps of practice in proper
sequence. The steps are set out in their natural order (more
logical than temporal) in the famous dictum of the Dhammapada:
"To abstain from all evil, to cultivate the good, and to
purify one's mind -- this is the teaching of the Buddhas"
(v. 183). The other two steps -- cultivating the good and purifying
the mind -- also receive their due, but to ensure their success,
a resolve to avoid the unwholesome is a necessity. Without such
a resolve the attempt to develop wholesome qualities is bound
to issue in a warped and stunted pattern of growth.
training in moral discipline governs the two principal channels
of outer action, speech and body, as well as another area of
vital concern -- one's way of earning a living. Thus the training
contains three factors: right speech, right action, and right
livelihood. These we will now examine individually, following
the order in which they are set forth in the usual exposition
of the path.
Speech (samma vaca)
Buddha divides right speech into four components: abstaining
from false speech, abstaining from slanderous speech, abstaining
from harsh speech, and abstaining from idle chatter. Because
the effects of speech are not as immediately evident as those
of bodily action, its importance and potential is easily overlooked.
But a little reflection will show that speech and its offshoot,
the written word, can have enormous consequences for good or
for harm. In fact, whereas for beings such as animals who live
at the preverbal level physical action is of dominant concern,
for humans immersed in verbal communication speech gains the
ascendency. Speech can break lives, create enemies, and start
wars, or it can give wisdom, heal divisions, and create peace.
This has always been so, yet in the modern age the positive
and negative potentials of speech have been vastly multiplied
by the tremendous increase in the means, speed, and range of
communications. The capacity for verbal expression, oral and
written, has often been regarded as the distinguishing mark
of the human species. From this we can appreciate the need to
make this capacity the means to human excellence rather than,
as too often has been the case, the sign of human degradation.
Abstaining from false speech (musavada veramani)
someone avoids false speech and abstains from it. He speaks
the truth, is devoted to truth, reliable, worthy of confidence,
not a deceiver of people. Being at a meeting, or amongst people,
or in the midst of his relatives, or in a society, or in the
king's court, and called upon and asked as witness to tell
what he knows, he answers, if he knows nothing: "I know
nothing," and if he knows, he answers: "I know";
if he has seen nothing, he answers: "I have seen nothing,"
and if he has seen, he answers: "I have seen." Thus
he never knowingly speaks a lie, either for the sake of his
own advantage, or for the sake of another person's advantage,
or for the sake of any advantage whatsoever.
statement of the Buddha discloses both the negative and the
positive sides to the precept. The negative side is abstaining
from lying, the positive side speaking the truth. The determinative
factor behind the transgression is the intention to deceive.
If one speaks something false believing it to be true, there
is no breach of the precept as the intention to deceive is absent.
Though the deceptive intention is common to all cases of false
speech, lies can appear in different guises depending on the
motivating root, whether greed, hatred, or delusion. Greed as
the chief motive results in the lie aimed at gaining some personal
advantage for oneself or for those close to oneself -- material
wealth, position, respect, or admiration. With hatred as the
motive, false speech takes the form of the malicious lie, the
lie intended to hurt and damage others. When delusion is the
principal motive, the result is a less pernicious type of falsehood:
the irrational lie, the compulsive lie, the interesting exaggeration,
lying for the sake of a joke.
Buddha's stricture against lying rests upon several reasons.
For one thing, lying is disruptive to social cohesion. People
can live together in society only in an atmosphere of mutual
trust, where they have reason to believe that others will speak
the truth; by destroying the grounds for trust and inducing
mass suspicion, widespread lying becomes the harbinger signalling
the fall from social solidarity to chaos. But lying has other
consequences of a deeply personal nature at least equally disastrous.
By their very nature lies tend to proliferate. Lying once and
finding our word suspect, we feel compelled to lie again to
defend our credibility, to paint a consistent picture of events.
So the process repeats itself: the lies stretch, multiply, and
connect until they lock us into a cage of falsehoods from which
it is difficult to escape. The lie is thus a miniature paradigm
for the whole process of subjective illusion. In each case the
self-assured creator, sucked in by his own deceptions, eventually
winds up their victim.
considerations probably lie behind the words of counsel the
Buddha spoke to his son, the young novice Rahula, soon after
the boy was ordained. One day the Buddha came to Rahula, pointed
to a bowl with a little bit of water in it, and asked: "Rahula,
do you see this bit of water left in the bowl?" Rahula
answered: "Yes, sir." "So little, Rahula, is
the spiritual achievement (sama˝˝a, lit. 'recluseship')
of one who is not afraid to speak a deliberate lie." Then
the Buddha threw the water away, put the bowl down, and said:
"Do you see, Rahula, how that water has been discarded?
In the same way one who tells a deliberate lie discards whatever
spiritual achievement he has made." Again he asked: "Do
you see how this bowl is now empty? In the same way one who
has no shame in speaking lies is empty of spiritual achievement."
Then the Buddha turned the bowl upside down and said: "Do
you see, Rahula, how this bowl has been turned upside down?
In the same way one who tells a deliberate lie turns his spiritual
achievements upside down and becomes incapable of progress."
Therefore, the Buddha concluded, one should not speak a deliberate
lie even in jest.
is said that in the course of his long training for enlightenment
over many lives, a bodhisatta can break all the moral precepts
except the pledge to speak the truth. The reason for this is
very profound, and reveals that the commitment to truth has
a significance transcending the domain of ethics and even mental
purification, taking us to the domains of knowledge and being.
Truthful speech provides, in the sphere of interpersonal communication,
a parallel to wisdom in the sphere of private understanding.
The two are respectively the outward and inward modalities of
the same commitment to what is real. Wisdom consists in the
realization of truth, and truth (sacca) is not just a
verbal proposition but the nature of things as they are. To
realize truth our whole being has to be brought into accord
with actuality, with things as they are, which requires that
in communications with others we respect things as they are
by speaking the truth. Truthful speech establishes a correspondence
between our own inner being and the real nature of phenomena,
allowing wisdom to rise up and fathom their real nature. Thus,
much more than an ethical principle, devotion to truthful speech
is a matter of taking our stand on reality rather than illusion,
on the truth grasped by wisdom rather than the fantasies woven
Abstaining from slanderous speech (pisunaya vacaya veramani)
avoids slanderous speech and abstains from it. What he has
heard here he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension
there; and what he has heard there he does not repeat here,
so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that
are divided; and those that are united he encourages. Concord
gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord; and it
is concord that he spreads by his words.
speech is speech intended to create enmity and division, to
alienate one person or group from another. The motive behind
such speech is generally aversion, resentment of a rival's success
or virtues, the intention to tear down others by verbal denigrations.
Other motives may enter the picture as well: the cruel intention
of causing hurt to others, the evil desire to win affection
for oneself, the perverse delight in seeing friends divided.
speech is one of the most serious moral transgressions. The
root of hate makes the unwholesome kamma already heavy enough,
but since the action usually occurs after deliberation, the
negative force becomes even stronger because premeditation adds
to its gravity. When the slanderous statement is false, the
two wrongs of falsehood and slander combine to produce an extremely
powerful unwholesome kamma. The canonical texts record several
cases in which the calumny ofan innocent party led to an immediate
rebirth in the plane of misery.
opposite of slander, as the Buddha indicates, is speech that
promotes friendship and harmony. Such speech originates from
a mind of lovingkindness and sympathy. It wins the trust and
affection of others, who feel they can confide in one without
fear that their disclosures will be used against them. Beyond
the obvious benefits that such speech brings in this present
life, it is said that abstaining from slander has as its kammic
result the gain of a retinue of friends who can never be turned
against one by the slanderous words of others.
Abstaining from harsh speech (pharusaya vacaya veramani).
avoids harsh language and abstains from it. He speaks such
words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, such words
as go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeable
speech is speech uttered in anger, intended to cause the hearer
pain. Such speech can assume different forms, of which we might
mention three. One is abusive speech: scolding, reviling,
or reproving another angrily with bitter words. A second is
insult: hurting another by ascribing to him some offensive
quality which detracts from his dignity. A third is sarcasm:
speaking to someone in a way which ostensibly lauds him, but
with such a tone or twist of phrasing that the ironic intent
becomes clear and causes pain.
main root of harsh speech is aversion, assuming the form of
anger. Since the defilement in this case tends to work impulsively,
without deliberation, the transgression is less serious than
slander and the kammic consequence generally less severe. Still,
harsh speech is an unwholesome action with disagreeable results
for oneself and others, both now and in the future, so it has
to be restrained. The ideal antidote is patience -- learning
to tolerate blame and criticism from others, to sympathize with
their shortcomings, to respect differences in viewpoint, to
endure abuse without feeling compelled to retaliate. The Buddha
calls for patience even under the most trying conditions:
if, monks, robbers and murderers saw through your limbs and
joints, whosoever should give way to anger thereat would not
be following my advice. For thus ought you to train yourselves:
"Undisturbed shall our mind remain, with heart full of
love, and free from any hidden malice; and that person shall
we penetrate with loving thoughts, wide, deep, boundless, freed
from anger and hatred."
Abstaining from idle chatter (samphappalapa veramani).
avoids idle chatter and abstains from it. He speaks at the
right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful,
speaks of the Dhamma and the discipline; his speech is like
a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by reason,
moderate and full of sense.
chatter is pointless talk, speech that lacks purpose or depth.
Such speech communicates nothing of value, but only stirs up
the defilements in one's own mind and in others. The Buddha
advises that idle talk should be curbed and speech restricted
as much as possible to matters of genuine importance. In the
case of a monk, the typical subject of the passage just quoted,
his words should be selective and concerned primarily with the
Dhamma. Lay persons will have more need for affectionate small
talk with friends and family, polite conversation with acquaintances,
and talk in connection with their line of work. But even then
they should be mindful not to let the conversation stray into
pastures where the restless mind, always eager for something
sweet or spicy to feed on, might find the chance to indulge
its defiling propensities.
traditional exegesis of abstaining from idle chatter refers
only to avoiding engagement in such talk oneself. But today
it might be of value to give this factor a different slant,
made imperative by certain developments peculiar to our own
time, unknown in the days of the Buddha and the ancient commentators.
This is avoiding exposure to the idle chatter constantly bombarding
us through the new media of communication created by modern
technology. An incredible array of devices -- television, radio,
newspapers, pulp journals, the cinema -- turns out a continuous
stream of needless information and distracting entertainment
the net effect of which is to leave the mind passive, vacant,
and sterile. All these developments, naively accepted as "progress,"
threaten to blunt our aesthetic and spiritual sensitivities
and deafen us to the higher call of the contemplative life.
Serious aspirants on the path to liberation have to be extremely
discerning in what they allow themselves to be exposed to. They
would greatly serve their aspirations by including these sources
of amusement and needless information in the category of idle
chatter and making an effort to avoid them.
Action (samma kammanta)
action means refraining from unwholesome deeds that occur with
the body as their natural means of expression. The pivotal element
in this path factor is the mental factor of abstinence, but
because this abstinence applies to actions performed through
the body, it is called "right action." The Buddha
mentions three components of right action: abstaining from taking
life, abstaining from taking what is not given, and abstaining
from sexual misconduct. These we will briefly discuss in order.
Abstaining from the taking of life (panatipata veramani)
someone avoids the taking of life and abstains from it. Without
stick or sword, conscientious, full of sympathy, he is desirous
of the welfare of all sentient beings.
from taking life" has a wider application than simply refraining
from killing other human beings. The precept enjoins abstaining
from killing any sentient being. A "sentient being"
(pani, satta) is a living being endowed with mind or
consciousness; for practical purposes, this means human beings,
animals, and insects. Plants are not considered to be sentient
beings; though they exhibit some degree of sensitivity, they
lack full-fledged consciousness, the defining attribute of a
"taking of life" that is to be avoided is intentional
killing, the deliberate destruction of life of a being endowed
with consciousness. The principle is grounded in the consideration
that all beings love life and fear death, that all seek happiness
and are averse to pain. The essential determinant of transgression
is the volition to kill, issuing in an action that deprives
a being of life. Suicide is also generally regarded as a violation,
but not accidental killing as the intention to destroy life
is absent. The abstinence may be taken to apply to two kinds
of action, the primary and the secondary. The primary is the
actual destruction of life; the secondary is deliberately harming
or torturing another being without killing it.
the Buddha's statement on non-injury is quite simple and straightforward,
later commentaries give a detailed analysis of the principle.
A treatise from Thailand, written by an erudite Thai patriarch,
collates a mass of earlier material into an especially thorough
treatment, which we shall briefly summarize here.
The treatise points out that the taking of life may have varying
degrees of moral weight entailing different consequences. The
three primary variables governing moral weight are the object,
the motive, and the effort. With regard to the object there
is a difference in seriousness between killing a human being
and killing an animal, the former being kammically heavier since
man has a more highly developed moral sense and greater spiritual
potential than animals. Among human beings, the degree of kammic
weight depends on the qualities of the person killed and his
relation to the killer; thus killing a person of superior spiritual
qualities or a personal benefactor, such as a parent or a teacher,
is an especially grave act.
motive for killing also influences moral weight. Acts of killing
can be driven by greed, hatred, or delusion. Of the three, killing
motivated by hatred is the most serious, and the weight increases
to the degree that the killing is premeditated. The force of
effort involved also contributes, the unwholesome kamma being
proportional to the force and the strength of the defilements.
positive counterpart to abstaining from taking life, as the
Buddha indicates, is the development of kindness and compassion
for other beings. The disciple not only avoids destroying life;
he dwells with a heart full of sympathy, desiring the welfare
of all beings. The commitment to non-injury and concern for
the welfare of others represent the practical application of
the second path factor, right intention, in the form of good
will and harmlessness.
Abstaining from taking what is not given (adinnadana veramani)
avoids taking what is not given and abstains from it; what
another person possesses of goods and chattel in the village
or in the wood, that he does not take away with thievish intent.
what is not given" means appropriating the rightful belongings
of others with thievish intent. If one takes something that
has no owner, such as unclaimed stones, wood, or even gems extracted
from the earth, the act does not count as a violation even though
these objects have not been given. But also implied as a transgression,
though not expressly stated, is withholding from others what
should rightfully be given to them.
mention a number of ways in which "taking what is not given"
can be committed. Some of the most common may be enumerated:
stealing: taking the belongings of others secretly,
as in housebreaking, pickpocketing, etc.;
robbery: taking what belongs to others openly by force
snatching: suddenly pulling away another's possession
before he has time to resist;
fraudulence: gaining possession of another's belongings
by falsely claiming them as one's own;
deceitfulness: using false weights and measures to
degree of moral weight that attaches to the action is determined
by three factors: the value of the object taken; the qualities
of the victim of the theft; and the subjective state of the
thief. Regarding the first, moral weight is directly proportional
to the value of the object. Regarding the second, the weight
varies according to the moral qualities of the deprived individual.
Regarding the third, acts of theft may be motivated either by
greed or hatred. While greed is the most common cause, hatred
may also be responsible as when one person deprives another
of his belongings not so much because he wants them for himself
as because he wants to harm the latter. Between the two, acts
motivated by hatred are kammically heavier than acts motivated
by sheer greed.
positive counterpart to abstaining from stealing is honesty,
which implies respect for the belongings of others and for their
right to use their belongings as they wish. Another related
virtue is contentment, being satisfied with what one has without
being inclined to increase one's wealth by unscrupulous means.
The most eminent opposite virtue is generosity, giving away
one's own wealth and possessions in order to benefit others.
Abstaining from sexual misconduct (kamesu miccha-cara veramani)
avoids sexual misconduct and abstains from it. He has no intercourse
with such persons as are still under the protection of father,
mother, brother, sister or relatives, nor with married women,
nor with female convicts, nor lastly, with betrothed girls.
guiding purposes of this precept, from the ethical standpoint,
are to protect marital relations from outside disruption and
to promote trust and fidelity within the marital union. From
the spiritual standpoint it helps curb the expansive tendency
of sexual desire and thus is a step in the direction of renunciation,
which reaches its consummation in the observance of celibacy
(brahmacariya) binding on monks and nuns. But for laypeople
the precept enjoins abstaining from sexual relations with an
illicit partner. The primary transgression is entering into
full sexual union, but all other sexual involvements of a less
complete kind may be considered secondary infringements.
main question raised by the precept concerns who is to count
as an illicit partner. The Buddha's statement defines the illicit
partner from the perspective of the man, but later treatises
elaborate the matter for both sexes.
a man, three kinds of women are considered illicit partners:
A woman who is married to another man. This includes, besides
a woman already married to a man, a woman who is not his legal
wife but is generally recognized as his consort, who lives
with him or is kept by him or is in some way acknowledged
as his partner. All these women are illicit partners for men
other than their own husbands. This class would also include
a woman engaged to another man. But a widow or divorced woman
is not out of bounds, provided she is not excluded for other
A woman still under protection. This is a girl or woman who
is under the protection of her mother, father, relatives,
or others rightfully entitled to be her guardians. This provision
rules out elopements or secret marriages contrary to the wishes
of the protecting party.
A woman prohibited by convention. This includes close female
relatives forbidden as partners by social tradition, nuns
and other women under a vow of celibacy, and those prohibited
as partners by the law of the land.
the standpoint of a woman, two kinds of men are considered illicit
For a married woman any man other than her husband is out
of bounds. Thus a married woman violates the precept if she
breaks her vow of fidelity to her husband. But a widow or
divorcee is free to remarry.
For any woman any man forbidden by convention, such as close
relatives and those under a vow of celibacy, is an illicit
these, any case of forced, violent, or coercive sexual union
constitutes a transgression. But in such a case the violation
falls only on the offender, not on the one compelled to submit.
positive virtue corresponding to the abstinence is, for laypeople,
marital fidelity. Husband and wife should each be faithful and
devoted to the other, content with the relationship, and should
not risk a breakup to the union by seeking outside partners.
The principle does not, however, confine sexual relations to
the marital union. It is flexible enough to allow for variations
depending on social convention. The essential purpose, as was
said, is to prevent sexual relations which are hurtful to others.
When mature independent people, though unmarried, enter into
a sexual relationship through free consent, so long as no other
person is intentionally harmed, no breach of the training factor
monks and nuns, including men and women who have undertaken
the eight or ten precepts, are obliged to observe celibacy.
They must abstain not only from sexual misconduct, but from
all sexual involvements, at least during the period of their
vows. The holy life at its highest aims at complete purity in
thought, word, and deed, and this requires turning back the
tide of sexual desire.
Livelihood (samma ajiva)
livelihood is concerned with ensuring that one earns one's living
in a righteous way. For a lay disciple the Buddha teaches that
wealth should be gained in accordance with certain standards.
One should acquire it only by legal means, not illegally; one
should acquire it peacefully, without coercion or violence;
one should acquire it honestly, not by trickery or deceit; and
one should acquire it in ways which do not entail harm and suffering
for others. The Buddha mentions
five specific kinds of livelihood which bring harm to others
and are therefore to be avoided: dealing in weapons, in living
beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave
trade and prostitution), in meat production and butchery, in
poisons, and in intoxicants (AN 5:177). He further names several
dishonest means of gaining wealth which fall under wrong livelihood:
practising deceit, treachery, soothsaying, trickery, and usury
(MN 117). Obviously any occupation that requires violation of
right speech and right action is a wrong form of livelihood,
but other occupations, such as selling weapons or intoxicants,
may not violate those factors and yet be wrong because of their
consequences for others.
Thai treatise discusses the positive aspects of right livelihood
under the three convenient headings of rightness regarding actions,
rightness regarding persons, and rightness regarding objects.
"Rightness regarding actions" means that workers should
fulfil their duties diligently and conscientiously, not idling
away time, claiming to have worked longer hours than they did,
or pocketing the company's goods. "Rightness regarding
persons" means that due respect and consideration should
be shown to employers, employees, colleagues, and customers.
An employer, for example, should assign his workers chores according
to their ability, pay them adequately, promote them when they
deserve a promotion and give them occasional vacations and bonuses.
Colleagues should try to cooperate rather than compete, while
merchants should be equitable in their dealings with customers.
"Rightness regarding objects" means that in business
transactions and sales the articles to be sold should be presented
truthfully. There should be no deceptive advertising, misrepresentations
of quality or quantity, or dishonest manoeuvers.
purification of conduct established by the prior three factors
serves as the basis for the next division of the path, the division
of concentration (samadhikkhandha). This present phase
of practice, which advances from moral restraint to direct mental
training, comprises the three factors of right effort, right
mindfulness, and right concentration. It gains its name from
the goal to which it aspires, the power of sustained concentration,
itself required as the support for insight-wisdom. Wisdom is
the primary tool for deliverance, but the penetrating vision
it yields can only open up when the mind has been composed and
collected. Right concentration brings the requisite stillness
to the mind by unifying it with undistracted focus on a suitable
object. To do so, however, the factor of concentration needs
the aid of effort and mindfulness. Right effort provides the
energy demanded by the task, right mindfulness the steadying
points for awareness.
commentators illustrate the interdependence of the three factors
within the concentration group with a simple simile. Three boys
go to a park to play. While walking along they see a tree with
flowering tops and decide they want to gather the flowers. But
the flowers are beyond the reach even of the tallest boy. Then
one friend bends down and offers his back. The tall boy climbs
up, but still hesitates to reach for the flowers from fear of
falling. So the third boy comes over and offers his shoulder
for support. The first boy, standing on the back of the second
boy, then leans on the shoulder of the third boy, reaches up,
and gathers the flowers.
this simile the tall boy who picks the flowers represents concentration
with its function of unifying the mind. But to unify the mind
concentration needs support: the energy provided by right effort,
which is like the boy who offers his back. It also requires
the stabilizing awareness provided by mindfulness, which is
like the boy who offers his shoulder. When right concentration
receives this support, then empowered by right effort and balanced
by right mindfulness it can draw in the scattered strands of
thought and fix the mind firmly on its object.
(viriya), the mental factor behind right effort, can
appear in either wholesome or unwholesome forms. The same factor
fuels desire, aggression, violence, and ambition on the one
hand, and generosity, self-discipline, kindness, concentration,
and understanding on the other. The exertion involved in right
effort is a wholesome form of energy, but it is something more
specific, namely, the energy in wholesome states of consciousness
directed to liberation from suffering. This last qualifying
phrase is especially important. For wholesome energy to become
a contributor to the path it has to be guided by right view
and right intention, and to work in association with the other
path factors. Otherwise, as the energy in ordinary wholesome
states of mind, it merely engenders an accumulation of merit
that ripens within the round of birth and death; it does not
issue in liberation from the round.
and again the Buddha has stressed the need for effort, for diligence,
exertion, and unflagging perseverance. The reason why effort
is so crucial is that each person has to work out his or her
own deliverance. The Buddha does what he can by pointing out
the path to liberation; the rest involves putting the path into
practice, a task that demands energy. This energy is to be applied
to the cultivation of the mind, which forms the focus of the
entire path. The starting point is the defiled mind, afflicted
and deluded; the goal is the liberated mind, purified and illuminated
by wisdom. What comes in between is the unremitting effort to
transform the defiled mind into the liberated mind. The work
of self-cultivation is not easy -- there is no one who can do
it for us but ourselves -- but it is not impossible. The Buddha
himself and his accomplished disciples provide the living proof
that the task is not beyond our reach. They assure us, too,
that anyone who follows the path can accomplish the same goal.
But what is needed is effort, the work of practice taken up
with the determination: "I shall not give up my efforts
until I have attained whatever is attainable by manly perseverance,
energy, and endeavour."
nature of the mental process effects a division of right effort
into four "great endeavours":
to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states;
to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen;
to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen;
to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.
unwholesome states (akusala dhamma) are the defilements,
and the thoughts, emotions, and intentions derived from them,
whether breaking forth into action or remaining confined within.
The wholesome states (kusala dhamma) are states of mind
untainted by defilements, especially those conducing to deliverance.
Each of the two kinds of mental states imposes a double task.
The unwholesome side requires that the defilements lying dormant
be prevented from erupting and that the active defilements already
present be expelled. The wholesome side requires that the undeveloped
liberating factors first be brought into being, then persistently
developed to the point of full maturity. Now we will examine
each of these four divisions of right effort, giving special
attention to their most fertile field of application, the cultivation
of the mind through meditation.
To prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states
the disciple rouses his will to avoid the arising of evil,
unwholesome states that have not yet arisen; and he makes
effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.
first side of right effort aims at overcoming unwholesome states,
states of mind tainted by defilements. Insofar as they impede
concentration the defilements are usually presented in a fivefold
set called the "five hindrances" (pa˝canivarana):
sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness
and worry, and doubt. They receive the name "hindrances"
because they block the path to liberation; they grow up and
over the mind preventing calm and insight, the primary instruments
for progress. The first two hindrances, sensual desire and ill
will, are the strongest of the set, the most formidable barriers
to meditative growth, representing, respectively, the unwholesome
roots of greed and aversion. The other three hindrances, less
toxic but still obstructive, are offshoots of delusion, usually
in association with other defilements.
desire is interpreted in two ways. Sometimes it is understood
in a narrow sense as lust for the "five strands of sense
pleasure," i.e. agreeable sights, sounds, smells, tastes,
and touches; sometimes a broader interpretation is given, by
which the term becomes inclusive of craving in all its modes,
whether for sense pleasures, wealth, power, position, fame,
or anything else it can settle upon. The second hindrance, ill
will, is a synonym for aversion. It comprises hatred, anger,
resentment, repulsion of every shade, whether directed towards
other people, towards oneself, towards objects, or towards situations.
The third hindrance, dullness and drowsiness, is a compound
of two factors linked together by their common feature of mental
unwieldiness. One is dullness (thina), manifest as mental
inertia; the other is drowsiness (middha), seen in mental
sinking, heaviness of mind, or excessive inclination to sleep.
At the opposite extreme is the fourth hindrance, restlessness
and worry. This too is a compound with its two members linked
by their common feature of disquietude. Restlessness (uddhacca)
is agitation or excitement, which drives the mind from thought
to thought with speed and frenzy; worry (kukkucca) is
remorse over past mistakes and anxiety about their possible
undesired consequences. The fifth hindrance, doubt, signifies
a chronic indecisiveness and lack of resolution: not the probing
of critical intelligence, an attitude encouraged by the Buddha,
but a persistent inability to commit oneself to the course of
spiritual training due to lingering doubts concerning the Buddha,
his doctrine, and his path.
first effort to be made regarding the hindrances is the effort
to prevent the unarisen hindrances from arising; this is also
called the endeavour to restrain (samvarappadhana). The
effort to hold the hindrances in check is imperative both at
the start of meditative training and throughout the course of
its development. For when the hindrances arise, they disperse
attention and darken the quality of awareness, to the detriment
of calm and clarity. The hindrances do not come from outside
the mind but from within. They appear through the activation
of certain tendencies constantly lying dormant in the deep recesses
of the mental continuum, awaiting the opportunity to surface.
what sparks the hindrances into activity is the input afforded
by sense experience. The physical organism is equipped with
five sense faculties each receptive to its own specific kind
of data -- the eye to forms, the ear to sounds, the nose to
smells, the tongue to tastes, the body to tangibles. Sense objects
continuously impinge on the senses, which relay the information
they receive to the mind, where it is processed, evaluated,
and accorded an appropriate response. But the mind can deal
with the impressions it receives in different ways, governed
in the first place by the manner in which it attends to them.
When the mind adverts to the incoming data carelessly, with
unwise consideration (ayoniso manasikara), the sense
objects tend to stir up unwholesome states. They do this either
directly, through their immediate impact, or else indirectly
by depositing memory traces which later may swell up as the
objects of defiled thoughts, images, and fantasies. As a general
rule the defilement that is activated corresponds to the object:
attractive objects provoke desire, disagreeable objects provoke
ill will, and indeterminate objects provoke the defilements
connected with delusion.
an uncontrolled response to the sensory input stimulates the
latent defilements, what is evidently needed to prevent them
from arising is control over the senses. Thus the Buddha teaches,
as the discipline for keeping the hindrances in check, an exercise
called the restraint of the sense faculties (indriya-samvara):
he perceives a form with the eye, a sound with the ear, an
odour with the nose, a taste with the tongue, an impression
with the body, or an object with the mind, he apprehends neither
the sign nor the particulars. And he strives to ward off that
through which evil and unwholesome states, greed and sorrow,
would arise, if he remained with unguarded senses; and he
watches over his senses, restrains his senses.
of the senses does not mean denial of the senses, retreating
into a total withdrawal from the sensory world. This is impossible,
and even if it could be achieved, the real problem would still
not be solved; for the defilements lie in the mind, not in the
sense organs or objects. The key to sense control is indicated
by the phrase "not apprehending the sign or the particulars."
The "sign" (nimitta) is the object's general
appearance insofar as this appearance is grasped as the basis
for defiled thoughts; the "particulars" (anubyanjana)
are its less conspicuous features. If sense control is lacking,
the mind roams recklessly over the sense fields. First it grasps
the sign, which sets the defilements into motion, then it explores
the particulars, which permits them to multiply and thrive.
restrain the senses requires that mindfulness and clear understanding
be applied to the encounter with the sense fields. Sense consciousness
occurs in a series, as a sequence of momentary cognitive acts
each having its own special task. The initial stages in the
series occur as automatic functions: first the mind adverts
to the object, then apprehends it, then admits the percept,
examines it, and identifies it. Immediately following the identification
a space opens up in which there occurs a free evaluation of
the object leading to the choice of a response. When mindfulness
is absent the latent defilements, pushing for an opportunity
to emerge, will motivate a wrong consideration. One will grasp
the sign of the object, explore its details, and thereby give
the defilements their opportunity: on account of greed one will
become fascinated by an agreeable object, on account of aversion
one will be repelled by a disagreeable object. But when one
applies mindfulness to the sensory encounter, one nips the cognitive
process in the bud before it can evolve into the stages that
stimulate the dormant taints. Mindfulness holds the hindrances
in check by keeping the mind at the level of what is sensed.
It rivets awareness on the given, preventing the mind from embellishing
the datum with ideas born of greed, aversion, and delusion.
Then, with this lucent awareness as a guide, the mind can proceed
to comprehend the object as it is, without being led astray.
To abandon the arisen unwholesome states
the disciple rouses his will to overcome the evil, unwholesome
states that have already arisen and he makes effort, stirs
up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.
the effort at sense control the defilements may still surface.
They swell up from the depths of the mental continuum, from
the buried strata of past accumulations, to congeal into unwholesome
thoughts and emotions. When this happens a new kind of effort
becomes necessary, the effort to abandon arisen unwholesome
states, called for short the endeavour to abandon (pahanappadhana):
does not retain any thought of sensual lust, ill will, or
harmfulness, or any other evil and unwholesome states that
may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys
them, causes them to disappear.
as a skilled physician has different medicines for different
ailments, so the Buddha has different antidotes for the different
hindrances, some equally applicable to all, some geared to a
particular hindrance. In an important discourse the Buddha explains
five techniques for expelling distracting thoughts.
The first is to expel the defiled thought with a wholesome thought
which is its exact opposite, analogous to the way a carpenter
might use a new peg to drive out an old one. For each of the
five hindrances there is a specific remedy, a line of meditation
designed expressly to deflate it and destroy it. This remedy
can be applied intermittently, when a hindrance springs up and
disrupts meditation on the primary subject; or it can be taken
as a primary subject itself, used to counter a defilement repeatedly
seen to be a persistent obstacle to one's practice. But for
the antidote to become effective in the first role, as a temporary
expedient required by the upsurge of a hindrance, it is best
to gain some familiarity with it by making it a primary object,
at least for short periods.
desire a remedy of general application is the meditation on
impermanence, which knocks away the underlying prop of clinging,
the implicit assumption that the objects clung to are stable
and durable. For desire in the specific form of sensual lust
the most potent antidote is the contemplation of the unattractive
nature of the body, to be dealt with at greater length in the
next chapter. Ill will meets its proper remedy in the meditation
on lovingkindness (metta), which banishes all traces
of hatred and anger through the methodical radiation of the
altruistic wish that all beings be well and happy. The dispelling
of dullness and drowsiness calls for a special effort to arouse
energy, for which several methods are suggested: the visualization
of a brilliant ball of light, getting up and doing a period
of brisk walking meditation, reflection on death, or simply
making a firm determination to continue striving. Restlessness
and worry are most effectively countered by turning the mind
to a simple object that tends to calm it down; the method usually
recommended is mindfulness of breathing, attention to the in-and-out
flow of the breath. In the case of doubt the special remedy
is investigation: to make inquiries, ask questions, and study
the teachings until the obscure points become clear.
this first of the five methods for expelling the hindrances
involves a one-to-one alignment between a hindrance and its
remedy, the other four utilize general approaches. The second
marshals the forces of shame (hiri) and moral dread (ottappa)
to abandon the unwanted thought: one reflects on the thought
as vile and ignoble or considers its undesirable consequences
until an inner revulsion sets in which drives the thought away.
The third method involves a deliberate diversion of attention.
When an unwholesome thought arises and clamours to be noticed,
instead of indulging it one simply shuts it out by redirecting
one's attention elsewhere, as if closing one's eyes or looking
away to avoid an unpleasant sight. The fourth method uses the
opposite approach. Instead of turning away from the unwanted
thought, one confronts it directly as an object, scrutinizes
its features, and investigates its source. When this is done
the thought quiets down and eventually disappears. For an unwholesome
thought is like a thief: it only creates trouble when its operation
is concealed, but put under observation it becomes tame. The
fifth method, to be used only as a last resort, is suppression
-- vigorously restraining the unwholesome thought with the power
of the will in the way a strong man might throw a weaker man
to the ground and keep him pinned there with his weight.
applying these five methods with skill and discretion, the Buddha
says, one becomes a master of all the pathways of thought. One
is no longer the subject of the mind but its master. Whatever
thought one wants to think, that one will think. Whatever thought
one does not want to think, that one will not think. Even if
unwholesome thoughts occasionally arise, one can dispel them
immediately, just as quickly as a red-hot pan will turn to steam
a few chance drops of water.
To arouse unarisen wholesome states
the disciple rouses his will to arouse wholesome states that
have not yet arisen; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy,
exerts his mind and strives.
with the removal of defilements, right effort also imposes the
task of cultivating wholesome states of mind. This involves
two divisions: the arousing of wholesome states not yet arisen
and the maturation of wholesome states already arisen.
first of the two divisions is also known as the endeavour to
develop (bhavanappadhana). Though the wholesome states
to be developed can be grouped in various ways -- serenity and
insight, the four foundations of mindfulness, the eight factors
of the path, etc. -- the Buddha lays special stress on a set
called the seven factors of enlightenment (satta bojjhanga):
mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, energy, rapture, tranquillity,
concentration, and equanimity.
he develops the factors of enlightenment, based on solitude,
on detachment, on cessation, and ending in deliverance, namely:
the enlightenment factors of mindfulness, investigation of phenomena,
energy, rapture, tranquillity, concentration, and equanimity.
seven states are grouped together as "enlightenment factors"
both because they lead to enlightenment and because they constitute
enlightenment. In the preliminary stages of the path they prepare
the way for the great realization; in the end they remain as
its components. The experience of enlightenment, perfect and
complete understanding, is just these seven components working
in unison to break all shackles and bring final release from
way to enlightenment starts with mindfulness. Mindfulness
clears the ground for insight into the nature of things by bringing
to light phenomena in the now, the present moment, stripped
of all subjective commentary, interpretations, and projections.
Then, when mindfulness has brought the bare phenomena into focus,
the factor of investigation steps in to search out their
characteristics, conditions, and consequences. Whereas mindfulness
is basically receptive, investigation is an active factor which
unflinchingly probes, analyzes, and dissects phenomena to uncover
their fundamental structures.
work of investigation requires energy, the third factor
of enlightenment, which mounts in three stages. The first, inceptive
energy, shakes off lethargy and arouses initial enthusiasm.
As the work of contemplation advances, energy gathers momentum
and enters the second stage, perseverance, wherein it propels
the practice without slackening. Finally, at the peak, energy
reaches the third stage, invincibility, where it drives contemplation
forward leaving the hindrances powerless to stop it.
energy increases, the fourth factor of enlightenment is quickened.
This is rapture, a pleasurable interest in the object.
Rapture gradually builds up, ascending to ecstatic heights:
waves of bliss run through the body, the mind glows with joy,
fervour and confidence intensify. But these experiences, as
encouraging as they are, still contain a flaw: they create an
excitation verging on restlessness. With further practice, however,
rapture subsides and a tone of quietness sets in signalling
the rise of the fifth factor, tranquillity. Rapture remains
present, but it is now subdued, and the work of contemplation
proceeds with self-possessed serenity.
brings to ripeness concentration, the sixth factor, one-pointed
unification of mind. Then, with the deepening of concentration,
the last enlightenment factor comes into dominance. This is
equanimity, inward poise and balance free from the two
defects of excitement and inertia. When inertia prevails, energy
must be aroused; when excitement prevails, it is necessary to
exercise restraint. But when both defects have been vanquished
the practice can unfold evenly without need for concern. The
mind of equanimity is compared to the driver of a chariot when
the horses are moving at a steady pace: he neither has to urge
them forward nor to hold them back, but can just sit comfortably
and watch the scenery go by. Equanimity has the same "on-looking"
quality. When the other factors are balanced the mind remains
poised watching the play of phenomena.
To maintain arisen wholesome states
the disciple rouses his will to maintain the wholesome things
that have already arisen, and not to allow them to disappear,
but to bring them to growth, to maturity, and to the full
perfection of development; and he makes effort, stirs up his
energy, exerts his mind and strives.
last of the four right efforts aims at maintaining the arisen
wholesome factors and bringing them to maturity. Called the
"endeavour to maintain" (anurakkhanappadhana),
it is explained as the effort to "keep firmly in the mind
a favourable object of concentration that has arisen."
The work of guarding the object causes the seven enlightenment
factors to gain stability and gradually increase in strength
until they issue in the liberating realization. This marks the
culmination of right effort, the goal in which the countless
individual acts of exertion finally reach fulfilment.
Buddha says that the Dhamma, the ultimate truth of things, is
directly visible, timeless, calling out to be approached and
seen. He says further that it is always available to us, and
that the place where it is to be realized is within oneself. The ultimate truth, the Dhamma, is not something
mysterious and remote, but the truth of our own experience.
It can be reached only by understanding our experience, by penetrating
it right through to its foundations. This truth, in order to
become liberating truth, has to be known directly. It is not
enough merely to accept it on faith, to believe it on the authority
of books or a teacher, or to think it out through deductions
and inferences. It has to be known by insight, grasped and absorbed
by a kind of knowing which is also an immediate seeing.
brings the field of experience into focus and makes it accessible
to insight is a mental faculty called in Pali sati, usually
translated as "mindfulness." Mindfulness is presence
of mind, attentiveness or awareness. Yet the kind of awareness
involved in mindfulness differs profoundly from the kind of
awareness at work in our usual mode of consciousness. All consciousness
involves awareness in the sense of a knowing or experiencing
of an object. But with the practice of mindfulness awareness
is applied at a special pitch. The mind is deliberately kept
at the level of bare attention, a detached observation
of what is happening within us and around us in the present
moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained
to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating
the present event. All judgements and interpretations have to
be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.
The task is simply to note whatever comes up just as it is occurring,
riding the changes of events in the way a surfer rides the waves
on the sea. The whole process is a way of coming back into the
present, of standing in the here and now without slipping away,
without getting swept away by the tides of distracting thoughts.
might be assumed that we are always aware of the present, but
this is a mirage. Only seldom do we become aware of the present
in the precise way required by the practice of mindfulness.
In ordinary consciousness the mind begins a cognitive process
with some impression given in the present, but it does not stay
with it. Instead it uses the immediate impression as a springboard
for building blocks of mental constructs which remove it from
the sheer facticity of the datum. The cognitive process is generally
interpretative. The mind perceives its object free from conceptualization
only briefly. Then, immediately after grasping the initial impression,
it launches on a course of ideation by which it seeks to interpret
the object to itself, to make it intelligible in terms of its
own categories and assumptions. To bring this about the mind
posits concepts, joins the concepts into constructs -- sets
of mutually corroborative concepts -- then weaves the constructs
together into complex interpretative schemes. In the end the
original direct experience has been overrun by ideation and
the presented object appears only dimly through dense layers
of ideas and views, like the moon through a layer of clouds.
Buddha calls this process of mental construction papa˝ca,
"elaboration," "embellishment," or "conceptual
proliferation." The elaborations block out the presentational
immediacy of phenomena; they let us know the object only "at
a distance," not as it really is. But the elaborations
do not only screen cognition; they also serve as a basis for
projections. The deluded mind, cloaked in ignorance, projects
its own internal constructs outwardly, ascribing them to the
object as if they really belonged to it. As a result, what we
know as the final object of cognition, what we use as the basis
for our values, plans, and actions, is a patchwork product,
not the original article. To be sure, the product is not wholly
illusion, not sheer fantasy. It takes whatis given in immediate
experience as its groundwork and raw material, but along with
this it includes something else: the embellishments fabricated
by the mind.
springs for this process of fabrication, hidden from view, are
the latent defilements. The defilements create the embellishments,
project them outwardly, and use them as hooks for coming to
the surface, where they cause further distortion. To correct
the erroneous notions is the task of wisdom, but for wisdom
to discharge its work effectively, it needs direct access to
the object as it is in itself, uncluttered by the conceptual
elaborations. The task of right mindfulness is to clear up the
cognitive field. Mindfulness brings to light experience in its
pure immediacy. It reveals the object as it is before it has
been plastered over with conceptual paint, overlaid with interpretations.
To practice mindfulness is thus a matter not so much of doing
but of undoing: not thinking, not judging, not associating,
not planning, not imagining, not wishing. All these "doings"
of ours are modes of interference, ways the mind manipulates
experience and tries to establish its dominance. Mindfulness
undoes the knots and tangles of these "doings" by
simply noting. It does nothing but note, watching each occasion
of experience as it arises, stands, and passes away. In the
watching there is no room for clinging, no compulsion to saddle
things with our desires. There is only a sustained contemplation
of experience in its bare immediacy, carefully and precisely
exercises a powerful grounding function. It anchors the mind
securely in the present, so it does not float away into the
past and future with their memories, regrets, fears, and hopes.
The mind without mindfulness is sometimes compared to a pumpkin,
the mind established in mindfulness to a stone.
A pumpkin placed on the surface of a pond soon floats away and
always remains on the water's surface. But a stone does not
float away; it stays where it is put and at once sinks into
the water until it reaches bottom. Similarly, when mindfulness
is strong, the mind stays with its object and penetrates its
characteristics deeply. It does not wander and merely skim the
surface as the mind destitute of mindfulness does.
facilitates the achievement of both serenity and insight. It
can lead to either deep concentration or wisdom, depending on
the mode in which it is applied. Merely a slight shift in the
mode of application can spell the difference between the course
the contemplative process takes, whether it descends to deeper
levels of inner calm culminating in the stages of absorption,
the jhanas, or whether instead it strips away the veils
of delusion to arrive at penetrating insight. To lead to the
stages of serenity the primary chore of mindfulness is to keep
the mind on the object, free from straying. Mindfulness serves
as the guard charged with the responsibility of making sure
that the mind does not slip away from the object to lose itself
in random undirected thoughts. It also keeps watch over the
factors stirring in the mind, catching the hindrances beneath
their camouflages and expelling them before they can cause harm.
To lead to insight and the realizations of wisdom, mindfulness
is exercised in a more differentiated manner. Its task, in this
phase of practice, is to observe, to note, to discern phenomena
with utmost precision until their fundamental characteristics
are brought to light.
mindfulness is cultivated through a practice called "the
four foundations of mindfulness" (cattaro satipatthana),
the mindful contemplation of four objective spheres: the body,
feelings, states of mind, and phenomena. As the Buddha explains:
what, monks, is right mindfulness? Herein, a monk dwells contemplating
the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful,
having put away covetousness and grief concerning the world.
He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings ... states of
mind in states of mind ... phenomena in phenomena, ardent,
clearly comprehending and mindful, having put away covetousness
and grief concerning the world.
Buddha says that the four foundations of mindfulness form "the
only way that leads to the attainment of purity, to the overcoming
of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to
the entering upon the right path and the realization of Nibbana."
They are called "the only way" (ekayano maggo),
not for the purpose of setting forth a narrow dogmatism, but
to indicate that the attainment of liberation can only issue
from the penetrating contemplation of the field of experience
undertaken in the practice of right mindfulness.
the four applications of mindfulness, the contemplation of the
body is concerned with the material side of existence; the other
three are concerned principally (though not solely) with the
mental side. The completion of the practice requires all four
contemplations. Though no fixed order is laid down in which
they are to be taken up, the body is generally taken first as
the basic sphere of contemplation; the others come into view
later, when mindfulness has gained in strength and clarity.
Limitations of space do not allow for a complete explanation
of all four foundations. Here we have to settle for a brief
Contemplation of the Body (kayanupassana)
Buddha begins his exposition of the body with contemplation
of the mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati). Though
not required as a starting point for meditation, in actual practice
mindfulness of breathing usually serves as the "root meditation
subject" (mulakammatthana), the foundation for the
entire course of contemplation. It would be a mistake, however,
to consider this subject merely an exercise for neophytes. By
itself mindfulness of breathing can lead to all the stages of
the path culminating in full awakening. In fact it was this
meditation subject that the Buddha used on the night of his
own enlightenment. He also reverted to it throughout the years
during his solitary retreats, and constantly recommended it
to the monks, praising it as "peaceful and sublime, an
unadulterated blissful abiding, which banishes at once and stills
evil unwholesome thoughts as soon as they arise" (MN 118).
of breathing can function so effectively as a subject of meditation
because it works with a process that is always available to
us, the process of respiration. What it does to turn this process
into a basis for meditation is simply to bring it into the range
of awareness by making the breath an object of observation.
The meditation requires no special intellectual sophistication,
only awareness of the breath. One merely breathes naturally
through the nostrils keeping the breath in mind at the contact
point around the nostrils or upper lip, where the sensation
of breath can be felt as the air moves in and out. There should
be no attempt to control the breath or to force it into predetermined
rhythms, only a mindful contemplation of the natural process
of breathing in and out. The awareness of breath cuts through
the complexities of discursive thinking, rescues us from pointless
wandering in the labyrinth of vain imaginings, and grounds us
solidly in the present. For whenever we become aware of breathing,
really aware of it, we can be aware of it only in the present,
never in the past or the future.
Buddha's exposition of mindfulness of breathing involves four
basic steps. The first two (which are not necessarily sequential)
require that a long inhalation or exhalation be noted as it
occurs, and that a short inhalation or exhalation be noted as
it occurs. One simply observes the breath moving in and out,
observing it as closely as possible, noting whether the breath
is long or short. As mindfulness grows sharper, the breath can
be followed through the entire course of its movement, from
the beginning of an inhalation through its intermediary stages
to its end, then from the beginning of an exhalation through
its intermediary stages to its end. This third step is called
"clearly perceiving the entire (breath) body." The
fourth step, "calming the bodily function," involves
a progressive quieting down of the breath and its associated
bodily functions until they become extremely fine and subtle.
Beyond these four basic steps lie more advanced practices which
direct mindfulness of breathing towards deep concentration and
practice in the contemplation of the body, which extends meditation
outwards from the confines of a single fixed position, is mindfulness
of the postures. The body can assume four basic postures --
walking, standing, sitting, and lying down -- and a variety
of other positions marking the change from one posture to another.
Mindfulness of the postures focuses full attention on the body
in whatever position it assumes: when walking one is aware of
walking, when standing one is aware of standing, when sitting
one is aware of sitting, when lying down one is aware of lying
down, when changing postures one is aware of changing postures.
The contemplation of the postures illuminates the impersonal
nature of the body. It reveals that the body is not a self or
the belonging of a self, but merely a configuration of living
matter subject to the directing influence of volition.
next exercise carries the extension of mindfulness a step further.
This exercise, called "mindfulness and clear comprehension"
(satisampaja˝˝a), adds to the bare awareness an element
of understanding. When performing any action, one performs it
with full awareness or clear comprehension. Going and coming,
looking ahead and looking aside, bending and stretching, dressing,
eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, falling asleep, waking
up, speaking, remaining silent -- all become occasions for the
progress of meditation when done with clear comprehension. In
the commentaries clear comprehension is explained as fourfold:
(1) understanding the purpose of the action, i.e. recognizing
its aim and determining whether that aim accords with the Dhamma;
(2) understanding suitability, i.e. knowing the most efficient
means to achieve one's aim; (3) understanding the range of meditation,
i.e. keeping the mind constantly in a meditative frame even
when engaged in action; and (4) understanding without delusion,
i.e. seeing the action as an impersonal process devoid of a
controlling ego-entity. This
last aspect will be explored more thoroughly in the last chapter,
on the development of wisdom.
next two sections on mindfulness of the body present analytical
contemplations intended to expose the body's real nature. One
of these is the meditation on the body's unattractiveness, already
touched on in connection with right effort; the other, the analysis
of the body into the four primary elements. The first, the meditation
on unattractiveness, is designed
to counter infatuation with the body, especially in its form
of sexual desire. The Buddha teaches that the sexual drive is
a manifestation of craving, thus a cause of dukkha that
has to be reduced and extricated as a precondition for bringing
dukkha to an end. The meditation aims at weakening sexual
desire by depriving the sexual urge of its cognitive underpinning,
the perception of the body as sensually alluring. Sensual desire
rises and falls together with this perception. It springs up
because we view the body as attractive; it declines when this
perception of beauty is removed. The perception of bodily attractiveness
in turn lasts only so long as the body is looked at superficially,
grasped in terms of selected impressions. To counter that perception
we have to refuse to stop with these impressions but proceed
to inspect the body at a deeper level, with a probing scrutiny
grounded in dispassion.
this is what is undertaken in the meditation on unattractiveness,
which turns back the tide of sensuality by pulling away its
perceptual prop. The meditation takes one's own body as object,
since for a neophyte to start off with the body of another,
especially a member of the opposite sex, might fail to accomplish
the desired result. Using visualization as an aid, one mentally
dissects the body into its components and investigates them
one by one, bringing their repulsive nature to light. The texts
mention thirty-two parts: head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth,
skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm,
spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, stomach contents,
excrement, brain, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears,
grease, snot, spittle, sinovial fluid, and urine. The repulsiveness
of the parts implies the same for the whole: the body seen closeup
is truly unattractive, its beautiful appearance a mirage. But
the aim of this meditation must not be misapprehended. The aim
is not to produce aversion and disgust but detachment, to extinguish
the fire of lust by removing its fuel.
other analytical contemplation deals with the body in a different
way. This meditation, called the analysis into elements (dhatuvavatthana),
sets out to counter our innate tendency to identify with the
body by exposing the body's essentially impersonal nature. The
means it employs, as its name indicates, is the mental dissection
of the body into the four primary elements, referred to by the
archaic names earth, water, fire, and air, but actually signifying
the four principal behavioural modes of matter: solidity, fluidity,
heat, and oscillation. The solid element is seen most clearly
in the body's solid parts -- the organs, tissues, and bones;
the fluid element, in the bodily fluids; the heat element, in
the body's temperature; the oscillation element, in the respiratory
process. The break with the identification of the body as "I"
or "my self" is effected by a widening of perspective
after the elements have come into view. Having analyzed the
body into the elements, one then considers that all four elements,
the chief aspects of bodily existence, are essentially identical
with the chief aspects of external matter, with which the body
is in constant interchange. When one vividly realizes this through
prolonged meditation, one ceases to identify with the body,
ceases to cling to it. One sees that the body is nothing more
than a particular configuration of changing material processes
which support a stream of changing mental processes. There is
nothing here that can be considered a truly existent self, nothing
that can provide a substantial basis for the sense of personal
last exercise in mindfulness of the body is a series of "cemetery
meditations," contemplations of the body's disintegration
after death, which may be performed either imaginatively, with
the aid of pictures, or through direct confrontation with a
corpse. By any of these means one obtains a clear mental image
of a decomposing body, then applies the process to one's own
body, considering: "This body, now so full of life, has
the same nature and is subject to the same fate. It cannot escape
death, cannot escape disintegration, but must eventually die
and decompose." Again, the purpose of this meditation should
not be misunderstood. The aim is not to indulge in a morbid
fascination with death and corpses, but to sunder our egoistic
clinging to existence with a contemplation sufficiently powerful
to break its hold. The clinging to existence subsists through
the implicit assumption of permanence. In the sight of a corpse
we meet the teacher who proclaims unambiguously: "Everything
formed is impermanent."
Contemplation of Feeling (vedananupassana)
next foundation of mindfulness is feeling (vedana). The
word "feeling" is used here, not in the sense of emotion
(a complex phenomenon best subsumed under the third and fourth
foundations of mindfulness), but in the narrower sense of the
affective tone or "hedonic quality" of experience.
This may be of three kinds, yielding three principal types of
feeling: pleasant feeling, painful feeling, and neutral feeling.
The Buddha teaches that feeling is an inseparable concomitant
of consciousness, since every act of knowing is coloured by
some affective tone. Thus feeling is present at every moment
of experience; it may be strong or weak, clear or indistinct,
but some feeling must accompany the cognition.
arises in dependence on a mental event called "contact"
(phassa). Contact marks the "coming together"
of consciousness with the object via a sense faculty; it is
the factor by virtue of which consciousness "touches"
the object presenting itself to the mind through the sense organ.
Thus there are six kinds of contact distinguished by the six
sense faculties -- eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact,
body-contact, and mind-contact -- and six kinds of feeling distinguished
by the contact from which they spring.
acquires special importance as an object of contemplation because
it is feeling that usually triggers the latent defilements into
activity. The feelings may not be clearly registered, but in
subtle ways they nourish and sustain the dispositions to unwholesome
states. Thus when a pleasant feeling arises, we fall under the
influence of the defilement greed and cling to it. When a painful
feeling occurs, we respond with displeasure, hate, and fear,
which are aspects of aversion. And when a neutral feeling occurs,
we generally do not notice it, or let it lull us into a false
sense of security -- states of mind governed by delusion. From
this it can be seen that each of the root defilements is conditioned
by a particular kind of feeling: greed by pleasant feeling,
aversion by painful feeling, delusion by neutral feeling.
the link between feelings and the defilements is not a necessary
one. Pleasure does not always have to lead to greed, pain to
aversion, neutral feeling to delusion. The tie between them
can be snapped, and one essential means for snapping it is mindfulness.
Feeling will stir up a defilement only when it is not noticed,
when it is indulged rather than observed. By turning it into
an object of observation, mindfulness defuses the feeling so
that it cannot provoke an unwholesome response. Then, instead
of relating to the feeling by way of habit through attachment,
repulsion, or apathy, we relate by way of contemplation, using
the feeling as a springboard for understanding the nature of
the early stages the contemplation of feeling involves attending
to the arisen feelings, noting their distinctive qualities:
pleasant, painful, neutral. The feeling is noted without identifying
with it, without taking it to be "I" or "mine"
or something happening "to me." Awareness is kept
at the level of bare attention: one watches each feeling that
arises, seeing it as merely a feeling, a bare mental event shorn
of all subjective references, all pointers to an ego. The task
is simply to note the feeling's quality, its tone of pleasure,
pain, or neutrality.
as practice advances, as one goes on noting each feeling, letting
it go and noting the next, the focus of attention shifts from
the qualities of feelings to the process of feeling itself.
The process reveals a ceaseless flux of feelings arising and
dissolving, succeeding one another without a halt. Within the
process there is nothing lasting. Feeling itself is only a stream
of events, occasions of feeling flashing into being moment by
moment, dissolving as soon as they arise. Thus begins the insight
into impermanence, which, as it evolves, overturns the three
unwholesome roots. There is no greed for pleasant feelings,
no aversion for painful feelings, no delusion over neutral feelings.
All are seen as merely fleeting and substanceless events devoid
of any true enjoyment or basis for involvement.
Contemplation of the State of Mind (cittanupassana)
this foundation of mindfulness we turn from a particular mental
factor, feeling, to the general state of mind to which that
factor belongs. To understand what is entailed by this contemplation
it is helpful to look at the Buddhist conception of the mind.
Usually we think of the mind as an enduring faculty remaining
identical with itself through the succession of experiences.
Though experience changes, the mind which undergoes the changing
experience seems to remain the same, perhaps modified in certain
ways but still retaining its identity. However, in the Buddha's
teaching the notion of a permanent mental organ is rejected.
The mind is regarded, not as a lasting subject of thought, feeling,
and volition, but as a sequence of momentary mental acts, each
distinct and discrete, their connections with one another causal
rather than substantial.
single act of consciousness is called a citta, which
we shall render "a state of mind." Each citta consists
of many components, the chief of which is consciousness itself,
the basic experiencing of the object; consciousness is also
called citta, the name for the whole being given to its
principal part. Along with consciousness every citta contains
a set of concomitants called cetasikas, mental factors.
These include feeling, perception, volition, the emotions, etc.;
in short, all the mental functions except the primary knowing
of the object, which is citta or consciousness.
consciousness in itself is just a bare experiencing of an object,
it cannot be differentiated through its own nature but only
by way of its associated factors, the cetasikas. The cetasikas
colour the citta and give it its distinctive character; thus
when we want to pinpoint the citta as an object of contemplation,
we have to do so by using the cetasikas as indicators. In his
exposition of the contemplation of the state of mind, the Buddha
mentions, by reference to cetasikas, sixteen kinds of citta
to be noted: the mind with lust, the mind without lust, the
mind with aversion, the mind without aversion, the mind with
delusion, the mind without delusion, the cramped mind, the scattered
mind, the developed mind, the undeveloped mind, the surpassable
mind, the unsurpassable mind, the concentrated mind, the unconcentrated
mind, the freed mind, the unfreed mind. For practical purposes
it is sufficient at the start to focus solely on the first six
states, noting whether the mind is associated with any of the
unwholesome roots or free from them. When a particular citta
is present, it is contemplated merely as a citta, a state of
mind. It is not identified with as "I" or "mine,"
not taken as a self or as something belonging to a self. Whether
it is a pure state of mind or a defiled state, a lofty state
or a low one, there should be no elation or dejection, only
a clear recognition of the state. The state is simply noted,
then allowed to pass without clinging to the desired ones or
resenting the undesired ones.
contemplation deepens, the contents of the mind become increasingly
rarefied. Irrelevant flights of thought, imagination, and emotion
subside, mindfulness becomes clearer, the mind remains intently
aware, watching its own process of becoming. At times there
might appear to be a persisting observer behind the process,
but with continued practice even this apparent observer disappears.
The mind itself -- the seemingly solid, stable mind -- dissolves
into a stream of cittas flashing in and out of being moment
by moment, coming from nowhere and going nowhere, yet continuing
in sequence without pause.
Contemplation of Phenomena (dhammanupassana)
the context of the fourth foundation of mindfulness, the multivalent
word dhamma (here intended in the plural) has two interconnected
meanings, as the account in the sutta shows. One meaning is
cetasikas, the mental factors, which are now attended
to in their own right apart from their role as colouring the
state of mind, as was done in the previous contemplation. The
other meaning is the elements of actuality, the ultimate constituents
of experience as structured in the Buddha's teaching.To convey
both senses we render dhamma as "phenomena,"
for lack of a better alternative. But when we do so this should
not be taken to imply the existence of some noumenon
or substance behind the phenomena.The point of the Buddha's
teaching of anatta, egolessness, is that the basic constituents
of actuality are bare phenomena (suddha-dhamma) occurring
without any noumenal support.
sutta section on the contemplation of phenomena is divided into
five sub-sections, each devoted to a different set of phenomena:
the five hindrances, the five aggregates, the six inner and
outer sense bases, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the
Four Noble Truths. Among these, the five hindrances and the
seven enlightenment factors are dhamma in the narrower
sense of mental factors, the others are dhamma in the
broader sense of constituents of actuality. (In the third section,
however, on the sense bases, there is a reference to the fetters
that arise through the senses; these can also be included among
the mental factors.) In the present chapter we shall deal briefly
only with the two groups that may be regarded as dhamma
in the sense of mental factors. We already touched on both of
these in relation to right effort (Chapter V); now we shall
consider them in specific connection with the practice of right
mindfulness. We shall discuss the other types of dhamma
-- the five aggregates and the six senses -- in the final chapter,
in relation to the development of wisdom.
five hindrances and seven factors of enlightenment require special
attention because they are the principal impediments and aids
to liberation. The hindrances -- sensual desire, ill will, dullness
and drowsiness, restlessness and worry, and doubt -- generally
become manifest in an early stage of practice, soon after the
initial expectations and gross disturbances subside and the
subtle tendencies find the opportunity to surface. Whenever
one of the hindrances crops up, its presence should be noted;
then, when it fades away, a note should be made of its disappearance.
To ensure that the hindrances are kept under control an element
of comprehension is needed: we have to understand how the hindrances
arise, how they can be removed, and how they can be prevented
from arising in the future.
similar mode of contemplation is to be applied to the seven
factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation, energy,
rapture, tranquillity, concentration, and equanimity. When any
one of these factors arises, its presence should be noted. Then,
after noting its presence, one has to investigate to discover
how it arises and how it can be matured. When they first spring up, the enlightenment
factors are weak, but with consistent cultivation they accumulate
strength. Mindfulness initiates the contemplative process. When
it becomes well-established, it arouses investigation, the probing
quality of intelligence. Investigation in turn calls forth energy,
energy gives rise to rapture, rapture leads to tranquillity,
tranquillity to one-pointed concentration, and concentration
to equanimity. Thus the whole evolving course of practice leading
to enlightenment begins with mindfulness, which remains throughout
as the regulating power ensuring that the mind is clear, cognizant,
eighth factor of the path is right concentration, in Pali samma
samadhi. Concentration represents an intensification of
a mental factor present in every state of consciousness. This
factor, one-pointedness of mind (citt'ekaggata), has
the function of unifying the other mental factors in the task
of cognition. It is the factor responsible for the individuating
aspect of consciousness, ensuring that every citta or act of
mind remains centred on its object. At any given moment the
mind must be cognizant of something -- a sight, a sound, a smell,
a taste, a touch, or a mental object. The factor of one-pointedness
unifies the mind and its other concomitants in the task of cognizing
the object, while it simultaneously exercises the function of
centring all the constituents of the cognitive act on the object.
One-pointedness of mind explains the fact that in any act of
consciousness there is a central point of focus, towards which
the entire objective datum points from its outer peripheries
to its inner nucleus.
samadhi is only a particular kind of one-pointedness;
it is not equivalent to one-pointedness in its entirety. A gourmet
sitting down to a meal, an assassin about to slay his victim,
a soldier on the battlefield -- these all act with a concentrated
mind, but their concentration cannot be characterized as samadhi.
Samadhi is exclusively wholesome one-pointedness, the
concentration in a wholesome state of mind. Even then its range
is still narrower: it does not signify every form of wholesome
concentration, but only the intensified concentration that results
from a deliberate attempt to raise the mind to a higher, more
purified level of awareness.
commentaries define samadhi as the centring of the mind
and mental factors rightly and evenly on an object. Samadhi,
as wholesome concentration, collects together the ordinarily
dispersed and dissipated stream of mental states to induce an
inner unification. The two salient features of a concentrated
mind are unbroken attentiveness to an object and the consequent
tranquillity of the mental functions, qualities which distinguish
it from the unconcentrated mind. The mind untrained in concentration
moves in a scattered manner which the Buddha compares to the
flapping about of a fish taken from the water and thrown onto
dry land. It cannot stay fixed but rushes from idea to idea,
from thought to thought, without inner control. Such a distracted
mind is also a deluded mind. Overwhelmed by worries and concerns,
a constant prey to the defilements, it sees things only in fragments,
distorted by the ripples of random thoughts. But the mind that
has been trained in concentration, in contrast, can remain focused
on its object without distraction. This freedom from distraction
further induces a softness and serenity which make the mind
an effective instrument for penetration. Like a lake unruffled
by any breeze, the concentrated mind is a faithful reflector
that mirrors whatever is placed before it exactly as it is.
Development of Concentration
can be developed through either of two methods -- either as
the goal of a system of practice directed expressly towards
the attainment of deep concentration at the level of absorption
or as the incidental accompaniment of the path intended to generate
insight. The former method is called the development of serenity
(samatha-bhavana), the second the development of insight
(vipassana-bhavana). Both paths share certain preliminary
requirements. For both, moral discipline must be purified, the
various impediments must be severed, the meditator must seek
out suitable instruction (preferrably from a personal teacher),
and must resort to a dwelling conducive to practice. Once these
preliminaries have been dispensed with, the meditator on the
path of serenity has to obtain an object of meditation, something
to be used as a focal point for developing concentration.
the meditator has a qualified teacher, the teacher will probably
assign him an object judged to be appropriate for his temperament.
If he doesn't have a teacher, he will have to select an object
himself, perhaps after some experimentation. The meditation
manuals collect the subjects of serenity meditation into a set
of forty, called "places of work" (kammatthana)
since they are the places where the meditator does the work
of practice. The forty may be listed as follows:
ten unattractive objects (dasa asubha)
ten recollections (dasa anussatiyo)
four sublime states (cattaro brahmavihara)
four immaterial states (cattaro aruppa)
one perception (eka sa˝˝a)
one analysis (eka vavatthana).
kasinas are devices representing certain primordial qualities.
Four represent the primary elements -- the earth, water, fire,
and air kasinas; four represent colours -- the blue, yellow,
red, and white kasinas; the other two are the light and the
space kasinas. Each kasina is a concrete object representative
of the universal quality it signifies. Thus an earth kasina
would be a circular disk filled with clay. To develop concentration
on the earth kasina the meditator sets the disk in front of
him, fixes his gaze on it, and contemplates "earth, earth."
A similar method is used for the other kasinas, with appropriate
changes to fit the case.
ten "unattractive objects" are corpses in different
stages of decomposition. This subject appears similar to the
contemplation of bodily decay in the mindfulness of the body,
and in fact in olden times the cremation ground was recommended
as the most appropriate place for both. But the two meditations
differ in emphasis. In the mindfulness exercise stress falls
on the application of reflective thought, the sight of the decaying
corpse serving as a stimulus for consideration of one's own
eventual death and disintegration. In this exercise the use
of reflective thought is discouraged. The stress instead falls
on one-pointed mental fixation on the object, the less thought
ten recollections form a miscellaneous collection. The first
three are devotional meditations on the qualities of the Triple
Gem -- the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha; they use as their
basis standard formulas that have come down in the Suttas. The
next three recollections also rely on ancient formulas: the
meditations on morality, generosity, and the potential for divine-like
qualities in oneself. Then come mindfulness of death, the contemplation
of the unattractive nature of the body, mindfulness of breathing,
and lastly, the recollection of peace, a discursive meditation
four sublime states or "divine abodes" are the outwardly
directed social attitudes -- lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic
joy, and equanimity -- developed into universal radiations which
are gradually extended in range until they encompass all living
beings. The four immaterial states are the objective bases for
certain deep levels of absorption: the base of infinite space,
the base of infinite consciousness, the base of nothingness,
and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. These
become accessible as objects only to those who are already adept
in concentration. The "one perception" is the perception
of the repulsiveness of food, a discursive topic intended to
reduce attachment to the pleasures of the palate. The "one
analysis" is the contemplation of the body in terms of
the four primary elements, already discussed in the chapter
on right mindfulness.
such a variety of meditation subjects is presented, the aspiring
meditator without a teacher might be perplexed as to which to
choose. The manuals divide the forty subjects according to their
suitability for different personality types. Thus the unattractive
objects and the contemplation of the parts of the body are judged
to be most suitable for a lustful type, the meditation on lovingkindness
to be best for a hating type, the meditation on the qualities
of the Triple Gem to be most effective for a devotional type,
etc. But for practical purposes the beginner in meditation can
generally be advised to start with a simple subject that helps
reduce discursive thinking. Mental distraction caused by restlessness
and scattered thoughts is a common problem faced by persons
of all different character types; thus a meditator of any temperament
can benefit from a subject which promotes a slowing down and
stilling of the thought process. The subject generally recommended
for its effectiveness in clearing the mind of stray thoughts
is mindfulness of breathing, which can therefore be suggested
as the subject most suitable for beginners as well as veterans
seeking a direct approach to deep concentration. Once the mind
settles down and one's thought patterns become easier to notice,
one might then make use of other subjects to deal with special
problems that arise: the meditation on lovingkindness may be
used to counteract anger and ill will, mindfulness of the bodily
parts to weaken sensual lust, the recollection of the Buddha
to inspire faith and devotion, the meditation on death to arouse
a sense of urgency. The ability to select the subject appropriate
to the situation requires skill, but this skill evolves through
practice, often through simple trial-and-error experimentation.
Stages of Concentration
is not attained all at once but develops in stages. To enable
our exposition to cover all the stages of concentration, we
will consider the case of a meditator who follows the entire
path of serenity meditation from start to finish, and who will
make much faster progress than the typical meditator is likely
receiving his meditation subject from a teacher, or selecting
it on his own, the meditator retires to a quiet place. There
he assumes the correct meditation posture -- the legs crossed
comfortably, the upper part of the body held straight and erect,
hands placed one above the other on the lap, the head kept steady,
the mouth and eyes closed (unless a kasina or other visual object
is used), the breath flowing naturally and regularly through
the nostrils. He then focuses his mind on the object and tries
to keep it there, fixed and alert. If the mind strays, he notices
this quickly, catches it, and brings it back gently but firmly
to the object, doing this over and over as often as is necessary.
This initial stage is called preliminary concentration (parikkamma-samadhi)
and the object the preliminary sign (parikkamma-nimitta).
the initial excitement subsides and the mind begins to settle
into the practice, the five hindrances are likely to arise,
bubbling up from the depths. Sometimes they appear as thoughts,
sometimes as images, sometimes as obsessive emotions: surges
of desire, anger and resentment, heaviness of mind, agitation,
doubts. The hindrances pose a formidable barrier, but with patience
and sustained effort they can be overcome. To conquer them the
meditator will have to be adroit. At times, when a particular
hindrance becomes strong, he may have to lay aside his primary
subject of meditation and take up another subject expressly
opposed to the hindrance. At other times he will have to persist
with his primary subject despite the bumps along the road, bringing
his mind back to it again and again.
he goes on striving along the path of concentration, his exertion
activates five mental factors which come to his aid. These factors
are intermittently present in ordinary undirected consciousness,
but there they lack a unifying bond and thus do not play any
special role. However, when activated by the work of meditation,
these five factors pick up power, link up with one another,
and steer the mind towards samadhi, which they will govern
as the "jhana factors," the factors of absorption
(jhananga). Stated in their usual order the five are:
initial application of mind (vitakka), sustained application
of mind (vicara), rapture (piti), happiness (sukha),
and one-pointedness (ekaggata).
application of mind does the work of directing the mind
to the object. It takes the mind, lifts it up, and drives it
into the object the way one drives a nail through a block of
wood. This done, sustained application of mind anchors
the mind on the object, keeping it there through its function
of examination. To clarify the difference between these two
factors, initial application is compared to the striking of
a bell, sustained application to the bell's reverberations.
Rapture, the third factor, is the delight and joy that
accompany a favourable interest in the object, while happiness,
the fourth factor, is the pleasant feeling that accompanies
successful concentration. Since rapture and happiness share
similar qualities they tend to be confused with each other,
but the two are not identical. The difference between them is
illustrated by comparing rapture to the joy of a weary desert-farer
who sees an oasis in the distance, happiness to his pleasure
when drinking from the pond and resting in the shade. The fifth
and final factor of absorption is one-pointedness, which
has the pivotal function of unifying the mind on the object.
concentration is developed, these five factors spring up and
counteract the five hindrances. Each absorption factor opposes
a particular hindrance. Initial application of mind, through
its work of lifting the mind up to the object, counters dullness
and drowsiness. Sustained application, by anchoring the mind
on the object, drives away doubt. Rapture shuts out ill will,
happiness excludes restlessness and worry, and one-pointedness
counters sensual desire, the most alluring inducement to distraction.
Thus, with the strengthening of the absorption factors, the
hindrances fade out and subside. They are not yet eradicated
-- eradication can only be effected by wisdom, the third division
of the path -- but they have been reduced to a state of quiescence
where they cannot disrupt the forward movement of concentration.
the same time that the hindrances are being overpowered by the
jhana factors inwardly, on the side of the object too certain
changes are taking place. The original object of concentration,
the preliminary sign, is a gross physical object; in the case
of a kasina, it is a disk representing the chosen element or
colour, in the case of mindfulness of breathing the touch sensation
of the breath, etc. But with the strengthening of concentration
the original object gives rise to another object called the
"learning sign" (uggaha-nimitta). For a kasina
this will be a mental image of the disk seen as clearly in the
mind as the original object was with the eyes; for the breath
it will be a reflex image arisen from the touch sensation of
the air currents moving around the nostrils.
the learning sign appears, the meditator leaves off the preliminary
sign and fixes his attention on the new object. In due time
still another object will emerge out of the learning sign. This
object, called the "counterpart sign" (patibhaga-nimitta),
is a purified mental image many times brighter and clearer than
the learning sign. The learning sign is compared to the moon
seen behind a cloud, the counterpart sign to the moon freed
from the cloud. Simultaneously with the appearance of the counterpart
sign, the five absorption factors suppress the five hindrances,
and the mind enters the stage of concentration called upacara-samadhi,
"access concentration." Here, in access concentration,
the mind is drawing close to absorption. It has entered the
"neighbourhood" (a possible meaning of upacara)
of absorption, but more work is still needed for it to become
fully immersed in the object, the defining mark of absorption.
further practice the factors of concentration gain in strength
and bring the mind to absorption (appana-samadhi). Like
access concentration, absorption takes the counterpart sign
as object. The two stages of concentration are differentiated
neither by the absence of the hindrances nor by the counterpart
sign as object; these are common to both. What differentiates
them is the strength of the jhana factors. In access concentration
the jhana factors are present, but they lack strength and steadiness.
Thus the mind in this stage is compared to a child who has just
learned to walk: he takes a few steps, falls down, gets up,
walks some more, and again falls down. But the mind in absorption
is like a man who wants to walk: he just gets up and walks straight
ahead without hesitation.
in the stage of absorption is divided into eight levels, each
marked by greater depth, purity, and subtlety than its predecessor.
The first four form a set called the four jhanas, a word
best left untranslated for lack of a suitable equivalent, though
it can be loosely rendered "meditative absorption." The second four also form a set, the four immaterial states
(aruppa). The eight have to be attained in progressive
order, the achievement of any later level being dependent on
the mastery of the immediately preceding level.
four jhanas make up the usual textual definition of right concentration.
Thus the Buddha says:
what, monks, is right concentration? Herein, secluded from
sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a monk
enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied
by initial and sustained application of mind and filled with
rapture and happiness born of seclusion.
with the subsiding of initial and sustained application of
mind, by gaining inner confidence and mental unification,
he enters and dwells in the second jhana, which is free from
initial and sustained application but is filled with rapture
and happiness born of concentration.
the fading out of rapture, he dwells in equanimity, mindful
and clearly comprehending; and he experiences in his own person
that bliss of which the noble ones say: "Happily lives
he who is equanimous and mindful" -- thus he enters and
dwells in the third jhana.
the abandoning of pleasure and pain and with the previous
disappearance of joy and grief, he enters and dwells in the
fourth jhana, which has neither-pleasure-nor-pain and purity
of mindfulness due to equanimity.
monks, is right concentration.
jhanas are distinguished by way of their component factors.
The first jhana is constituted by the original set of five absorption
factors: initial application, sustained application, rapture,
happiness, and one-pointedness. After attaining the first jhana
the meditator is advised to master it. On the one hand he should
not fall into complacency over his achievement and neglect sustained
practice; on the other, he should not become over-confident
and rush ahead to attain the next jhana. To master the jhana
he should enter it repeatedly and perfect his skill in it, until
he can attain it, remain in it, emerge from it, and review it
without any trouble or difficulty.
mastering the first jhana, the meditator then considers that
his attainment has certain defects. Though the jhana is certainly
far superior to ordinary sense consciousness, more peaceful
and blissful, it still stands close to sense consciousness and
is not far removed from the hindrances. Moreover, two of its
factors, initial application and sustained application, appear
in time to be rather coarse, not as refined as the other factors.
Then the meditator renews his practice of concentration intent
on overcoming initial and sustained application. When his faculties
mature, these two factors subside and he enters the second jhana.
This jhana contains only three component factors: rapture, happiness,
and one-pointedness. It also contains a multiplicity of other
constituents, the most prominent of which is confidence of mind.
the second jhana the mind becomes more tranquil and more thoroughly
unified, but when mastered even this state seems gross, as it
includes rapture, an exhilarating factor that inclines to excitation.
So the meditator sets out again on his course of training, this
time resolved on overcoming rapture. When rapture fades out,
he enters the third jhana. Here there are only two absorption
factors, happiness and one-pointedness, while some other auxiliary
states come into ascendency, most notably mindfulness, clear
comprehension, and equanimity. But still, the meditator sees,
this attainment is defective in that it contains the feeling
of happiness, which is gross compared to neutral feeling, feeling
that is neither pleasant not painful. Thus he strives to get
beyond even the sublime happiness of the third jhana. When he
succeeds, he enters the fourth jhana, which is defined by two
factors -- one-pointedness and neutral feeling -- and has a
special purity of mindfulness due to the high level of equanimity.
the four jhanas lie the four immaterial states, levels of absorption
in which the mind transcends even the subtlest perception of
visualized images still sometimes persisting in the jhanas.
The immaterial states are attained, not by refining mental factors
as are the jhanas, but by refining objects, by replacing a relatively
gross object with a subtler one. The four attainments are named
after their respective objects: the base of infinite space,
the base of infinite consciousness, the base of nothingness,
and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.
These states represent levels of concentration so subtle and
remote as to elude clear verbal explanation. The last of the
four stands at the apex of mental concentration; it is the absolute,
maximum degree of unification possible for consciousness. But
even so, these absorptions reached by the path of serenity meditation,
as exalted as they are, still lack the wisdom of insight, and
so are not yet sufficient for gaining deliverance.
kinds of concentration discussed so far arise by fixing the
mind upon a single object to the exclusion of other objects.
But apart from these there is another kind of concentration
which does not depend upon restricting the range of awareness.
This is called "momentary concentration" (khanika-samadhi).
To develop momentary concentration the meditator does not deliberately
attempt to exclude the multiplicity of phenomena from his field
of attention. Instead, he simply directs mindfulness to the
changing states of mind and body, noting any phenomenon that
presents itself; the task is to maintain a continuous awareness
of whatever enters the range of perception, clinging to nothing.
As he goes on with his noting, concentration becomes stronger
moment after moment until it becomes established one-pointedly
on the constantly changing stream of events. Despite the change
in the object, the mental unification remains steady, and in
time acquires a force capable of suppressing the hindrances
to a degree equal to that of access concentration. This fluid,
mobile concentration is developed by the practice of the four
foundations of mindfulness, taken up along the path of insight;
when sufficiently strong it issues in the breakthrough to the
last stage of the path, the arising of wisdom.
The Development of Wisdom
right concentration claims the last place among the factors
of the Noble Eightfold Path, concentration itself does not mark
the path's culmination. The attainment of concentration makes
the mind still and steady, unifies its concomitants, opens vast
vistas of bliss, serenity, and power. But by itself it does
not suffice to reach the highest accomplishment, release from
the bonds of suffering. To reach the end of suffering demands
that the Eightfold Path be turned into an instrument of discovery,
that it be used to generate the insights unveiling the ultimate
truth of things. This requires the combined contributions of
all eight factors, and thus a new mobilization of right view
and right intention. Up to the present point these first two
path factors have performed only a preliminary function. Now
they have to be taken up again and raised to a higher level.
Right view is to become a direct seeing into the real nature
of phenomena, previously grasped only conceptually; right intention,
to become a true renunciation of defilements born out of deep
we turn to the development of wisdom, it will be helpful to
inquire why concentration is not adequate to the attainment
of liberation. Concentration does not suffice to bring liberation
because it fails to touch the defilements at their fundamental
level. The Buddha teaches that the defilements are stratified
into three layers: the stage of latent tendency, the stage of
manifestation, and the stage of transgression. The most deeply
grounded is the level of latent tendency (anusaya), where
a defilement merely lies dormant without displaying any activity.
The second level is the stage of manifestation (pariyutthana),
where a defilement, through the impact of some stimulus, surges
up in the form of unwholesome thoughts, emotions, and volitions.
Then, at the third level, the defilement passes beyond a purely
mental manifestation to motivate some unwholesome action of
body or speech. Hence this level is called the stage of transgression
three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path provide the check
against this threefold layering of the defilements. The first,
the training in moral discipline, restrains unwholesome bodily
and verbal activity and thus prevents defilements from reaching
the stage of transgression. The training in concentration provides
the safeguard against the stage of manifestation. It removes
already manifest defilements and protects the mind from their
continued influx. But even though concentration may be pursued
to the depths of full absorption, it cannot touch the basic
source of affliction -- the latent tendencies lying dormant
in the mental continuum. Against these concentration is powerless,
since to root them out calls for more than mental calm. What
it calls for, beyond the composure and serenity of the unified
mind, is wisdom (pa˝˝a), a penetrating vision of phenomena
in their fundamental mode of being.
alone can cut off the latent tendencies at their root because
the most fundamental member of the set, the one which nurtures
the others and holds them in place, is ignorance (avijja),
and wisdom is the remedy for ignorance. Though verbally a negative,
"unknowing," ignorance is not a factual negative,
a mere privation of right knowledge. It is, rather, an insidious
and volatile mental factor incessantly at work inserting itself
into every compartment of our inner life. It distorts cognition,
dominates volition, and determines the entire tone of our existence.
As the Buddha says: "The element of ignorance is indeed
a powerful element" (SN 14:13).
the cognitive level, which is its most basic sphere of operation,
ignorance infiltrates our perceptions, thoughts, and views,
so that we come to misconstrue our experience, overlaying it
with multiple strata of delusions. The most important of these
delusions are three: the delusions of seeing permanence in the
impermanent, of seing satisfaction in the unsatisfactory, and
of seeing a self in the selfless. Thus we take ourselves and our world to be solid, stable,
enduring entities, despite the ubiquitous reminders that everything
is subject to change and destruction. We assume we have an innate
right to pleasure, and direct our efforts to increasing and
intensifying our enjoyment with an anticipatory fervour undaunted
by repeated encounters with pain, disappointment, and frustration.
And we perceive ourselves as self-contained egos, clinging to
the various ideas and images we form of ourselves as the irrefragable
truth of our identity.
ignorance obscures the true nature of things, wisdom removes
the veils of distortion, enabling us to see phenomena in their
fundamental mode of being with the vivacity of direct perception.
The training in wisdom centres on the development of insight
(vipassana-bhavana), a deep and comprehensive seeing
into the nature of existence which fathoms the truth of our
being in the only sphere where it is directly accessible to
us, namely, in our own experience. Normally we are immersed
in our experience, identified with it so completely that we
do not comprehend it. We live it but fail to understand its
nature. Due to this blindness experience comes to be misconstrued,
worked upon by the delusions of permanence, pleasure, and self.
Of these cognitive distortions, the most deeply grounded and
resistant is the delusion of self, the idea that at the core
of our being there exists a truly established "I"
with which we are essentially identified. This notion of self,
the Buddha teaches, is an error, a mere presupposition lacking
a real referent. Yet, though a mere presupposition, the idea
of self is not inconsequential. To the contrary, it entails
consequences that can be calamitous. Because we make the view
of self the lookout point from which we survey the world, our
minds divide everything up into the dualities of "I"
and "not I," what is "mine" and what is
"not mine." Then, trapped in these dichotomies, we
fall victim to the defilements they breed, the urges to grasp
and destroy, and finally to the suffering that inevitably follows.
free ourselves from all defilements and suffering, the illusion
of selfhood that sustains them has to be dispelled, exploded
by the realization of selflessness. Precisely this is the task
set for the development of wisdom. The first step along the
path of development is an analytical one. In order to uproot
the view of self, the field of experience has to be laid out
in certain sets of factors, which are then methodically investigated
to ascertain that none of them singly or in combination can
be taken as a self. This analytical treatment of experience,
so characteristic of the higher reaches of Buddhist philosophical
psychology, is not intended to suggest that experience, like
a watch or car, can be reduced to an accidental conglomeration
of separable parts. Experience does have an irreducible unity,
but this unity is functional rather than substantial; it does
not require the postulate of a unifying self separate from the
factors, retaining its identity as a constant amidst the ceaseless
method of analysis applied most often is that of the five aggregates
of clinging (panc'upadanakkhandha): material form, feeling,
perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Material form constitutes the material side of existence:
the bodily organism with its sense faculties and the outer objects
of cognition. The other four aggregates constitute the mental
side. Feeling provides the affective tone, perception the factor
of noting and identifying, the mental formations the volitional
and emotive elements, and consciousness the basic awareness
essential to the whole occasion of experience. The analysis
by way of the five aggregates paves the way for an attempt to
see experience solely in terms of its constituting factors,
without slipping in implicit references to an unfindable self.
To gain this perspective requires the development of intensive
mindfulness, now applied to the fourth foundation, the contemplation
of the factors of existence (dhammanupassana). The disciple
will dwell contemplating the five aggregates, their arising
disciple dwells in contemplation of phenomena, namely, of
the five aggregates of clinging. He knows what material form
is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what feeling
is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what perception
is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what mental formations
are, how they arise, how they pass away; knows what consciousness
is, how it arises, how it passes away.
the disciple may instead base his contemplation on the six internal
and external spheres of sense experience, that is, the six sense
faculties and their corresponding objects, also taking note
of the "fetters" or defilements that arise from such
disciple dwells in contemplation of phenomena, namely, of
the six internal and external sense bases. He knows the eye
and forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and odours, the tongue
and tastes, the body and tangibles, the mind and mental objects;
and he knows as well the fetter that arises in dependence
on them. He understands how the unarisen fetter arises, how
the arisen fetter is abandoned, and how the abandoned fetter
does not arise again in the future.
view of self is further attenuated by examining the factors
of existence, not analytically, but in terms of their relational
structure. Inspection reveals that the aggregates exist solely
in dependence on conditions. Nothing in the set enjoys the absolute
self-sufficiency of being attributed to the assumed "I."
Whatever factors in the body-mind complex be looked at, they
are found to be dependently arisen, tied to the vast net of
events extending beyond themselves temporally and spatially.
The body, for example, has arisen through the union of sperm
and egg and subsists in dependence on food, water, and air.
Feeling, perception, and mental formations occur in dependence
on the body with its sense faculties. They require an object,
the corresponding consciousness, and the contact of the object
with the consciousness through the media of the sense faculties.
Consciousness in its turn depends on the sentient organism and
the entire assemblage of co-arisen mental factors. This whole
process of becoming, moreover, has arisen from the previous
lives in this particular chain of existences and inherit all
the accumulated kamma of the earlier existences. Thus nothing
possesses a self-sufficient mode of being. All conditioned phenomena
exist relationally, contingent and dependent on other things.
above two steps -- the factorial analysis and the discernment
of relations -- help cut away the intellectual adherence to
the idea of self, but they lack sufficient power to destroy
the ingrained clinging to the ego sustained by erroneous perception.
To uproot this subtle form of ego-clinging requires a counteractive
perception: direct insight into the empty, coreless nature of
phenomena. Such an insight is generated by contemplating the
factors of existence in terms of their three universal marks
-- impermanence (aniccata), unsatisfactoriness (dukkhata),
and selflessness (anattata). Generally, the first of
the three marks to be discerned is impermanence, which at the
level of insight does not mean merely that everything eventually
comes to an end. At this level it means something deeper and
more pervasive, namely, that conditioned phenomena are in constant
process, happenings which break up and perish almost as soon
as they arise. The stable objects appearing to the senses reveal
themselves to be strings of momentary formations (sankhara);
the person posited by common sense dissolves into a current
made up of two intertwining streams -- a stream of material
events, the aggregate of material form, and a stream of mental
events, the other four aggregates.
impermanence is seen, insight into the other two marks closely
follows. Since the aggregates are constantly breaking up, we
cannot pin our hopes on them for any lasting satisfaction. Whatever
expectations we lay on them are bound to be dashed to pieces
by their inevitable change. Thus when seen with insight they
are dukkha, suffering, in the deepest sense. Then, as
the aggregates are impermanent and unsatisfactory, they cannot
be taken as self. If they were self, or the belongings of a
self, we would be able to control them and bend them to our
will, to make them everlasting sources of bliss. But far from
being able to exercise such mastery, we find them to be grounds
of pain and disappointment. Since they cannot be subjected to
control, these very factors of our being are anatta:
not a self, not the belongings of a self, just empty, ownerless
phenomena occurring in dependence on conditions.
the course of insight practice is entered, the eight path factors
become charged with an intensity previously unknown. They gain
in force and fuse together into the unity of a single cohesive
path heading towards the goal. In the practice of insight all
eight factors and three trainings co-exist; each is there supporting
all the others; each makes its own unique contribution to the
work. The factors of moral discipline hold the tendencies to
transgression in check with such care that even the thought
of unethical conduct does not arise. The factors of the concentration
group keep the mind firmly fixed upon the stream of phenomena,
contemplating whatever arises with impeccable precision, free
from forgetfulness and distraction. Right view, as the wisdom
of insight, grows continually sharper and deeper; right intention
shows itself in a detachment and steadiness of purpose bringing
an unruffled poise to the entire process of contemplation.
meditation takes as its objective sphere the "conditioned
formations" (sankhara) comprised in the five aggregates.
Its task is to uncover their essential characteristics: the
three marks of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness.
Because it still deals with the world of conditioned events,
the Eightfold Path in the stage of insight is called the mundane
path (lokiyamagga). This designation in no way implies
that the path of insight is concerned with mundane goals, with
achievements falling in the range of samsara. It aspires to
transcendence, it leads to liberation, but its objective domain
of contemplation still lies within the conditioned world. However,
this mundane contemplation of the conditioned serves as the
vehicle for reaching the unconditioned, for attaining the supramundane.
When insight meditation reaches its climax, when it fully comprehends
the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness of everything
formed, the mind breaks through the conditioned and realizes
the unconditioned, Nibbana. It sees Nibbana with direct vision,
makes it an object of immediate realization.
breakthrough to the unconditioned is achieved by a type of consciousness
or mental event called the supramundane path (lokuttaramagga).
The supramundane path occurs in four stages, four "supramundane
paths," each marking a deeper level of realization and
issuing in a fuller degree of liberation, the fourth and last
in complete liberation. The four paths can be achieved in close
proximity to one another -- for those with extraordinarily sharp
faculties even in the same sitting -- or (as is more typically
the case) they can be spread out over time, even over several
lifetimes. The supramundane paths share in common the penetration
of the Four Noble Truths. They understand them, not conceptually,
but intuitively. They grasp them through vision, seeing them
with self-validating certainty to be the invariable truths of
existence. The vision of the truths which they present is complete
at one moment. The four truths are not understood sequentially,
as in the stage of reflection when thought is the instrument
of understanding. They are seen simultaneously: to see one truth
with the path is to see them all.
the path penetrates the four truths, the mind exercises four
simultaneous functions, one regarding each truth. It fully comprehends
the truth of suffering, seeing all conditioned existence as
stamped with the mark of unsatisfactoriness. At the same time
it abandons craving, cuts through the mass of egotism and desire
that repeatedly gives birth to suffering. Again, the mind realizes
cessation, the deathless element Nibbana, now directly present
to the inner eye. And fourthly, the mind develops the Noble
Eightfold Path, whose eight factors spring up endowed with tremendous
power, attained to supramundane stature: right view as the direct
seeing of Nibbana, right intention as the mind's application
to Nibbana , the triad of ethical factors as the checks on moral
transgression, right effort as the energy in the path-consciousness,
right mindfulness as the factor of awareness, and right concentration
as the mind's one-pointed focus. This ability of the mind to
perform four functions at the same moment is compared to a candle's
ability to simultaneously burn the wick, consume the wax, dispel
darkness, and give light.
supramundane paths have the special task of eradicating the
defilements. Prior to the attainment of the paths, in the stages
of concentration and even insight meditation, the defilements
were not cut off but were only debilitated, checked and suppressed
by the training of the higher mental faculties. Beneath the
surface they continued to linger in the form of latent tendencies.
But when the supramundane paths are reached, the work of eradication
as they bind us to the round of becoming, the defilements are
classified into a set of ten "fetters" (samyojana)
as follows: (1) personality view, (2) doubt, (3) clinging to
rules and rituals, (4) sensual desire, (5) aversion, (6) desire
for fine-material existence, (7) desire for immaterial existence,
(8) conceit, (9) restlessness, and (10) ignorance. The four
supramundane paths each eliminate a certain layer of defilements.
The first, the path of stream-entry (sotapatti-magga),
cuts off the first three fetters, the coarsest of the set, eliminates
them so they can never arise again. "Personality view"
(sakkaya-ditthi), the view of a truly existent self in
the five aggregates, is cut off since one sees the selfless
nature of all phenomena. Doubt is eliminated because one has
grasped the truth proclaimed by the Buddha, seen it for oneself,
and so can never again hang back due to uncertainty. And clinging
to rules and rites is removed since one knows that deliverance
can be won only through the practice of the Eightfold Path,
not through rigid moralism or ceremonial observances.
path is followed immediately by another state of supramundane
consciousness known as the fruit (phala), which results
from the path's work of cutting off defilements. Each path is
followed by its own fruit, wherein for a few moments the mind
enjoys the blissful peace of Nibbana before descending again
to the level of mundane consciousness. The first fruit is the
fruit of stream-entry, and a person who has gone through the
experience of this fruit becomes a "stream-enterer"
(sotapanna). He has entered the stream of the Dhamma
carrying him to final deliverance. He is bound for liberation
and can no longer fall back into the ways of an unenlightened
worldling. He still has certain defilements remaining in his
mental makeup, and it may take him as long as seven more lives
to arrive at the final goal, but he has acquired the essential
realization needed to reach it, and there is no way he can fall
enthusiastic practitioner with sharp faculties, after reaching
stream-entry, does not relax his striving but puts forth energy
to complete the entire path as swiftly as possible. He resumes
his practice of insight contemplation, passes through the ascending
stages of insight-knowledge, and in time reaches the second
path, the path of the once-returner (sakadagami-magga).
This supramundane path does not totally eradicate any of the
fetters, but it attenuates the roots of greed, aversion, and
delusion. Following the path the meditator experiences its fruit,
then emerges as a "once-returner" who will return
to this world at most only one more time before attaining full
our practitioner again takes up the task of contemplation. At
the next stage of supramundane realization he attains the third
path, the path of the non-returner (anagami-magga), with
which he cuts off the two fetters of sensual desire and ill
will. From that point on he can never again fall into the grip
of any desire for sense pleasure, and can never be aroused to
anger, aversion, or discontent. As a non-returner he will not
return to the human state of existence in any future life. If
he does not reach the last path in this very life, then after
death he will be reborn in a higher sphere in the fine-material
world (rupaloka) and there reach deliverance.
our meditator again puts forth effort, develops insight, and
at its climax enters the fourth path, the path of arahatship
(arahatta-magga). With this path he cuts off the five
remaining fetters -- desire for fine-material existence and
desire for immaterial existence, conceit, restlessness, and
ignorance. The first is the desire for rebirth into the celestial
planes made accessible by the four jhanas, the planes commonly
subsumed under the name "the Brahma-world." The second
is the desire for rebirth into the four immaterial planes made
accessible by the achievement of the four immaterial attainments.
Conceit (mana) is not the coarse type of pride to which
we become disposed through an over-estimation of our virtues
and talents, but the subtle residue of the notion of an ego
which subsists even after conceptually explicit views of self
have been eradicated. The texts refer to this type of conceit
as the conceit "I am" (asmimana). Restlessness
(uddhacca) is the subtle excitement which persists in
any mind not yet completely enlightened, and ignorance (avijja)
is the fundamental cognitive obscuration which prevents full
understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Although the grosser
grades of ignorance have been scoured from the mind by the wisdom
faculty in the first three paths, a thin veil of ignorance overlays
the truths even in the non-returner.
path of arahatship strips away this last veil of ignorance and,
with it, all the residual mental defilements. This path issues
in perfect comprehension of the Four Noble Truths. It fully
fathoms the truth of suffering; eradicates the craving from
which suffering springs; realizes with complete clarity the
unconditioned element, Nibbana, as the cessation of suffering;
and consummates the development of the eight factors of the
Noble Eightfold Path.
the attainment of the fourth path and fruit the disciple emerges
as an arahat, one who in this very life has been liberated from
all bonds. The arahat has walked the Noble Eightfold Path to
its end and lives in the assurance stated so often in the formula
from the Pali Canon: "Destroyed is birth; the holy life
has been lived; what had to be done has been done; there is
no coming back to any state of being." The arahat is no
longer a practitioner of the path but its living embodiment.
Having developed the eight factors of the path to their consummation,
the Liberated One lives in the enjoyment of their fruits, enlightenment
and final deliverance.
completes our survey of the Noble Eightfold Path, the way to
deliverance from suffering taught by the Buddha. The higher
reaches of the path may seem remote from us in our present position,
the demands of practice may appear difficult to fulfil. But
even if the heights of realization are now distant, all that
we need to reach them lies just beneath our feet. The eight
factors of the path are always accessible to us; they are mental
components which can be established in the mind simply through
determination and effort. We have to begin by straightening
out our views and clarifying our intentions. Then we have to
purify our conduct -- our speech, action, and livelihood. Taking
these measures as our foundation, we have to apply ourselves
with energy and mindfulness to the cultivation of concentration
and insight. The rest is a matter of gradual practice and gradual
progress, without expecting quick results. For some progress
may be rapid, for others it may be slow, but the rate at which
progress occurs should not cause elation or discouragement.
Liberation is the inevitable fruit of the path and is bound
to blossom forth when there is steady and persistent practice.
The only requirements for reaching the final goal are two: to
start and to continue. If these requirements are met there is
no doubt the goal will be attained. This is the Dhamma, the
A Factorial Analysis of the Noble Eightfold Path
(Pali and English)
Samma ditthi ..... Right view
˝ana ..... understanding suffering
˝ana ..... understanding its origin
˝ana ..... understanding its cessation
˝ana ..... understanding the way leading to its cessation
Samma sankappa ..... Right intention
..... intention of renunciation
..... intention of good will
..... intention of harmlessness
Samma vaca ..... Right speech
veramani ..... abstaining from false speech
vacaya veramani ..... abstaining from slanderous speech
vacaya veramani ..... abstaining from harsh speech
veramani ..... abstaining from idle chatter
Samma kammanta ..... Right action
veramani ..... abstaining from taking life
veramani ..... abstaining from stealing
micchacara veramani ..... abstaining from sexual misconduct
Samma ajiva ..... Right livelihood
ajivam pahaya ..... giving up wrong livelihood,
ajivena jivitam kappeti ..... one earns one's living by
a right form of livelihood
Samma vayama ..... Right effort
..... the effort to restrain defilements
..... the effort to abandon defilements
..... the effort to develop wholesome states
..... the effort to maintain wholesome states
Samma sati ..... Right mindfulness
..... mindful contemplation of the body
..... mindful contemplation of feelings
..... mindful contemplation of the mind
..... mindful contemplation of phenomena
Samma samadhi ..... Right concentration
..... the first jhana
..... the second jhana
..... the third jhana
..... the fourth jhana
General treatments of the Noble Eightfold Path:
Sayadaw. The Noble Eightfold Path and Its Factors Explained.
Thera. The Word of the Buddha. (BPS 14th ed., 1968).
Thera. The Buddha's Ancient Path. (BPS 3rd ed., 1979).
Bhikkhu. The Discourse on Right View. (Wheel 377/379).
Thera. Karma and Rebirth. (Wheel 9).
Francis. The Four Noble Truths. (Wheel 34/35).
O.H. de A. The Three Signata. (Wheel 20).
Thera. The Practice of Lovingkindness. (Wheel 7).
Thera. The Four Sublime States. (Wheel 6).
T. Renunciation. (Bodhi Leaf B 36).
Right Speech, Right Action, & Right Livelihood:
Bhikkhu. Going for Refuge and Taking the Precepts.
Thera. Everyman's Ethics. (Wheel 14).
The Five Precepts and the Five Ennoblers. (Bangkok:
Thera. The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest.
Thera. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment. (Wheel 1).
Thera. The Removal of Distracting Thoughts.(Wheel 21).
Thera. The Heart of Buddhist Meditation.(London: Rider,
1962; BPS, 1992).
Thera. The Power of Mindfulness. (Wheel 121/122).
Thera. The Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthana
Sutta). (Wheel 19).
Thera. The Way of Mindfulness. (BPS, 3rd ed., 1967).
Right Concentration & The Development of Wisdom:
Bhadantacariya. The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga).
Translated by Bhikkhu Đanamoli, 4th ed. (BPS, 1979).
Bhikkhu. Calm and Insight. (London: Curzon, 1980).
Sayadaw. A Manual of Insight. (Wheel 31/32).
Thera. The Buddha's Path to Deliverance. (BPS, 1982).
Amadeo. Tranquillity and Insight. (London: Rider, 1986;
Paravahera. Buddhist Meditation in Theory and Practice.
2nd ed. (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Buddhist Missionary Society,
Wheel publications and Bodhi Leaves referred to above are published
by the Buddhist Publication Society.
the Author ^
Bodhi is a Buddhist monk of American nationality, born in New
York City in 1944. After completing a doctorate in philosophy
at the Claremont Graduate School, he came to Sri Lanka for the
purpose of entering the Sangha. He received novice ordination
in 1972 and higher ordination in 1973, both under the eminent
scholar-monk, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, with whom he studied
Pali and Dhamma. He is the author of several works on Theravada
Buddhism, including four translations of major Pali suttas along
with their commentaries. Since 1984 he has been the Editor for
the Buddhist Publication Society, and since 1988 its President.
Ignorance is actually identical in nature with the unwholesome
root "delusion" (moha). When the Buddha speaks
in a psychological context about mental factors, he generally
uses the word "delusion"; when he speaks about the
causal basis of samsara, he uses the word "ignorance"
SN 56:11; Word of the Buddha, p. 26
Adhisilasikkha, adhicittasikkha, adhipa˝˝asikkha.
AN 3:33; Word of the Buddha, p. 19.
MN 117; Word of the Buddha, p. 36.
AN 6:63; Word of the Buddha, p. 19.
MN 9; Word of the Buddha, p. 29.
See DN 2, MN 27, etc. For details, see Vism. XIII, 72-101.
DN 22; Word of the Buddha, p. 29.
DN 22, SN 56:11; Word of the Buddha, p. 3
Ibid. Word of the Buddha, p. 16.
Ibid. Word of the Buddha, p. 22.
Nekkhammasankappa, abyapada sankappa, avihimsasankappa.
Kamasankappa, byapadasankappa, avihimsasankappa. Though
kama usually means sensual desire, the context seems
to allow a wider interpretation, as self-seeking desire in all
Strictly speaking, greed or desire (raga) becomes immoral
only when it impels actions violating the basic principles of
ethics, such as killing, stealing, adultery, etc. When it remains
merely as a mental factor or issues in actions not inherently
immoral -- e.g. the enjoyment of good food, the desire for recognition,
sexual relations that do not hurt others -- it is not immoral
but is still a form of craving causing bondage to suffering.
For a full account of the dukkha tied up with sensual desire,
see MN 13.
This might appear to contradict what we said earlier, that metta
is free from self-reference. The contradiction is only apparent,
however, for in developing metta towards oneself one
regards oneself objectively, as a third person. Further, the
kind of love developed is not self-cherishing but a detached
altruistic wish for one's own well-being.
Any other formula found to be effective may be used in place
of the formula given here. For a full treatment, see Đanamoli
Thera, The Practice of Lovingkindness, Wheel No. 7.
AN 10:176; Word of the Buddha, p. 50.
AN 10:176; Word of the Buddha, p. 50.
Subcommentary to Digha Nikaya.
AN 10:176; Word of the Buddha, pp. 50-51.
MN 21; Word of the Buddha, p. 51.
AN 10:176; Word of the Buddha, p. 51
AN 10:176; Word of the Buddha, p. 53.
HRH Prince Vajira˝anavarorasa, The Five Precepts and the
Five Ennoblers (Bangkok, 1975), pp. 1-9.
AN 10:176; Word of the Buddha, p. 53.
The Five Precepts and the Five Ennoblers gives a fuller
list, pp. 10-13.
AN 10:176; Word of the Buddha, p. 53.
The following is summarized from The Five Precepts and the
Five Ennoblers, pp. 16-18.
See AN 4:62; AN 5:41; AN 8:54.
The Five Precepts and the Five Ennoblers, pp. 45-47.
Papa˝casudani (Commentary to Majjhima Nikaya).
MN 70; Word of the Buddha, pp. 59-60.
AN 4:13; Word of the Buddha, p. 57.
Kamacchanda, byapada, thina-middha, uddhacca-kukkucca, vicikiccha.
AN 4:14; Word of the Buddha, p. 57.
AN 4:13; Word of the Buddha, p. 58.
AN 4:14; Word of the Buddha, p. 58.
MN 20; Word of the Buddha, p. 58.
For a full treatment of the methods for dealing with the hindrances
individually, consult the commentary to the Satipatthana Sutta
(DN 22, MN 10). A translation of the relevant passages, with
further extracts from the subcommentary, can be found in Soma
Thera, The Way of Mindfulness, pp. 116-26.
AN 4:13; Word of the Buddha, pp. 58-59.
AN 4:14; Word of the Buddha, p.59. The Pali names for
the seven are: satisambojjhanga, dhammavicayasambojjhanga,
viriyasambojjhanga, pitisambojjhanga, passaddhisambojjhanga,
AN 4:13; Word of the Buddha, p. 59.
AN 4:14; Word of the Buddha, p. 59.
Dhammo sanditthiko akaliko ehipassiko opanayiko paccattam
veditabbo vi˝˝uhi. (M. 7, etc.)
Commentary to Vism. See Vism. XIV, n. 64.
Sometimes the word satipatthana is translated "foundation
of mindfulness," with emphasis on the objective side, sometimes
"application of mindfulness," with emphasis on the
subjective side. Both explanations are allowed by the texts
DN 22; Word of the Buddha, p. 61.
Ibid. Word of the Buddha, p. 61.
For details, see Vism. VIII, 145-244.
See Soma Thera, The Way of Mindfulness, pp. 58-97.
Asubha-bhavana. The same subject is also called the perception
of repulsiveness (patikkulasa˝˝a) and mindfulness concerning
the body (kayagata sati).
For details, see Vism. VIII, 42-144.
For details, see Vism. XI, 27-117.
For a full account, see Soma Thera, The Way of Mindfulness,
Ibid., pp. 131-146.
In what follows I have to restrict myself to a brief overview.
For a full exposition, see Vism., Chapters III-XI.
See Vism. IV, 88-109.
Some common renderings such as "trance," "musing,"
etc., are altogether misleading and should be discarded.
DN 22; Word of the Buddha, pp. 80-81.
In Pali: akasana˝cayatana, vi˝˝ana˝cayatana, aki˝ca˝˝ayatana,
Anicce niccavipallasa, dukkhe sukhavipallasa, anattani atta-vipallasa.
In Pali: rupakkhandha, vedanakkhandha, sa˝˝akkhandha,
DN 22; Word of the Buddha, pp. 71-72.
DN 22; Word of the Buddha, p. 73.
In the first edition of this book I stated here that the four
paths have to be passed through sequentially, such that there
is no attainment of a higher path without first having reached
the paths below it. This certainly seems to be the position
of the Commentaries. However, the Suttas sometimes show individuals
proceeding directly from the stage of worldling to the third
or even the fourth path and fruit. Though the commentator explains
that they passed through each preceding path and fruit in rapid
succession, the canonical texts themselves give no indication
that this has transpired but suggest an immediate realization
of the higher stages without the intermediate attainment of
the lower stages. [Go back]
See Vism. XXII, 92-103. [Go back]