ABHIDHAMMA AND VIPASSANA
'Abbhidhamma' means dhamma which is exceedingly subtle, deep, difficult to comprehend, and vast in scope. 'Dhamma' means reality and truth. It means the law of cause and effect, the essence of things and the way things are by nature. It means knowable reality; a reality in which there are no beings, and which is fixed in the order of its manifestations. In short, 'Dhamma' means Reality and Truth in the absolute sense.
That exceedingly subtle, deep, difficult, excellent and wide Abhidhamma, which is real and correct because it speaks of the selflessness of beings and the natural essential condition of things, was taught by the Buddha in the realm of the gods. Because no distracting objects or hindrances interrupted the mental continua of the gods, they could immediately listen to this very difficult dhamma with undivided attention and fully comprehend it. In the human realm, the nuisances of having to eat, sleep and defecate, etc., interrupt and obstruct the performance of every task. And because whenever we focus our thoughts upon any given endeavor, physical weariness, the call of nature, and hunger and thirst always intervene, our concentration becomes broken even while we work. For this reason, there would have been no benefit in teaching piecemeal a doctrine so deep as the Abhidhamma in the realm of human beings.
The time-scale in the ream of the gods is vastly different from our own. One hundred human years equals only one day in Tavatimsa heaven, Because of this, the times for eating and sleeping, for example, are separated by extremely long intervals. Moreover, the gods neither defecate nor urinate, and they feel no bodily aches or weariness. Therefore, they were able to listen to the entire exposition of the Abhidhamma in a single sitting, and - for what was to them only fifteen minutes - to attend to the discourse with a stream of thought that was undivided and continuous. In contrast, it took the Venerable Sariputta, who was the most intelligent of the Buddha's disciples, ninety days and ninety separate trips to Tavatimsa to learn and then preach in the human realm that Abhidhamma which was taught to the gods in one uninterrupted sitting.
The Abhidhamma which the Venerable Sariputta heard in brief from the Buddha he preached to his five hundred disciples in a way that was neither brief nor extended. The monks who learned the Abhidhamma from the Venerable Sariputta were newly ordained, having entered the Order on the day the Buddha ascended to Tavatimsa heaven. These five hundred sons-of good-family took ordination at that time - the full moon day of 'Waso' - because they were inspired to faith by a display of miracles performed at the foot of a white mango tree. On the following day, they listened to the Abhidhamma; and it was this Abhidhamma which became for those monks their Vipassana.
And why was this? Those five hundred monks, all of whom became arahants during the rains-retreat of that year (the seventh rains-retreat of the Buddha), also became by the end of the retreat, masters of the seven books of the Abhidhamma (abhidhammika sattapakaranika). The Buddha first assembled the entire Dhamma and taught it all together (as the Dhammasangani). He then analyzed it into separate parts and taught (the Vibhanga). He further analyzed it in detail according to elements (producing thereby, the Dhatukatha). Again he assembled it together and again analyzed it into minute parts, this time in relation to individuals, (and so taught the Puggalapannati). After that, the Buddha examined and compared the different doctrines existing in the world and taught (the Kathavatthu). Thereupon, he examined and taught the Dhamma in pairs (Yamaka); and finally, taught the doctrine of causal relations in detail (Pathana).
The seven methods of examining Dhamma presented in the seven books of the Abhidhamma; that is to say, 1) the analysis of mind (citta), mental factors (cetasika) and matter (rupa) when taken together, 2) the analysis of the same when distinguished into parts, 3) the analysis of elements, 4) the analysis of individuals, 5) the comparison of doctrines, 6) the analysis of Dhamma into pairs, and 7) the examination of causal relations, are in truth none other than seven exceedingly deep methods of Vipassana practice. For this reason it can be said that the day the five hundred monks mastered the Abhidhamma - this being the teaching of Abhidhamma-Vipassana they had listened to since their ordination - was the very day they mastered the practice of Vipassana.
Vipassana is a method of wisdom that searches for truth and peace in diverse ways by observing, inquiring into, and penetrating the nature, the essence, the set order, the absence of being, the selflessness and the ultimately reality of mind and matter. For example, one method of Vipassana accomplishes this goal through ten kinds of knowledge whereby one comes to understand the nature of matter as producing effects in mutual dependence on matter; and similarly, the nature of mind as producing effects in mutual dependence on mind. Another method which achieves the same end; that is, the seeking out and penetration of reality, relies on an ascent through the seven purifications. In both instances, Vipassana and Abhidhamma are identical.
Since Vipassana meditation takes the Abhidhamma as its sole object of contemplation, Vipassana and Abhidhamma cannot be separated. And while it may not be said that one can practice Vipassana only after one has mastered the Abhidhamma, Vipassana meditation and the study of Abhidhamma remain one and the same thing. Because mind, mental factors and matter are forever bound up with this fathom-long body, the study and learning of this subject, and the concentrated observation of the nature of mind, mental factors and matter are tasks which cannot be distinguished.
Since at the very least one would have to say that there can be no Vipassana without an understanding of mind and matter, surely then it is not possible to separate Abhidhamma and Vipassana. It is explained in the Abhidhamma that the root causes giving rise to the seven elements of mind and matter are ignorance (avijja), craving (tanha) and volitional action (kamma). It is further pointed out that the supporting conditions for these same seven elements are kamma, mind, climate (utu) and nutriment (ahara). Only by grasping these abhidhammic truths will one possess the knowledge which comprehends conditional relations (paccayapariggahanana), and achieve the purification of mind necessary for overcoming doubt. These excellent benefits are pointed out by paticcasamuppada and pathana. Therefore, since it is the case that Vipassana and Abhidhamma are not separate but are mutually dependent, it is rightly submitted that Vipassana yogis ought not let go of that wise method of learning about the human condition called the Abhidhamma.
( Note: - This is the talk , Sitagu Sayadaw gave on a special occasion of Abhidhamma, translated into English by the Department of Research and Compilation, International Buddhist Academy, Sagaing Hill, Myanmar )
All living beings try to improve, their present and future lives by doing good deeds. Some of them may like to donate or to observe the moral precepts when the others like to meditate. As they perform different meritorious deeds, they wish to receive the different rewards or blessings in return.
There are two types of prayers. The first type aims at rebirth again and again (vattamisa), and the second type aims for freedom from the circle of rebirth or samsara (vivattamisa). What is the aspiration of the learned man? Which blessing should we ask for? In the Akitti Jataka, we can learn about the aspiration desired by the wise ascetic.
While residing at the Jetavana monastery in Savatthi, the Buddha uttered the following doctrine with reference to a donor who had given alms to the Buddha and His Disciples for seven days.
The Buddha said., "Dayaka, you have done a meritorious deed. Donation is the moral work of noble ones. Not only the layman but also the monk should give donations." After uttering this speech, Buddha related a bygone occurrence.
In a previous life, the Bodhisatta lived in Baranasi which was ruled by King Brahmadatta.
The Bodhisatta was born as a brahmana named Akitti, who inherited eighty crores of money. His sister's name was Yasavati.
When his parents passed away, he became fearful of the circle of rebirth (samsara). So he opened his house and stores of property and donated all he had. After donating his wealth, Akitti, accompanied by his sister, entered a forest three yojana (about twenty-one miles) away from his home. They built a cloister (assama) in the forest and stayed there.
Gradually, people noticed them and they became famous. So Akitti went to the Island of of NAGADIPA by using his supernormal powers (Abhinna) and stayed there.
Akitti was a very austere ascetic. He did not wander anywhere and he ate only the leaves and fruits of the kampyin tree. Because of his austerity (tapa) and precepts (sila), the throne of Sakka (the king of Tavatimsa Heaven) became hard and uncomfortable. So Sakka decended to the world of human beings in the form of brahmana to inquire why his throne was uncomfortable.
When Sakka realized that his throne was hard because of the austerity of Akitti, he decided to examine the ascetic. Sakka requested Akitti to offer him the boiled kampyin leaves which he had prepared for his meal. Akitti donated this food to Sakka for three days without eating anything himself. Assuming in his own form, Sakka asked him why he was so austere.
Akitti answered that he wanted to attain Enlightenment (Sabbannutanana). Sakka rejoiced greatly at the answer of the ascetic and declared that he would reward him with whatever he wanted.
The following boons were requested by Akitti.
(1) "Oh ... King of the devas, I do not want to have lobha (greed) which remains unsatisfied even with wife, children and property."
(2) "Oh... King of Tavatimsa, I do not want to have Dosa (hatred) which is able to destroy both the one who is angry and his surrounding."
(3) "Oh.. King of the Tavatirnsa gods, I do not want to have bewilderment (Moha) which has the characteristic of concealing the true path to liberation."
(4) "Oh. Sakka, I do not want to see a fool(bala). I do not want to hear the speech of a fool. I do not want to associate with a fool. I do not want to speak with a fool.
A fool can lead one to do evil deeds. A fool becomes angry even though others speak kindly to him. Nobody can guess his attitude. He observes no precepts. There is no auspiciousness in seeing a fool (amingala).
(5) "Oh.. Indra... May I see the wise (learned). May I hear the speech of the wise. May I associate with the wise. May I be pleased with the wise.
A wise man can lead to welfare. He will never urge one to do evil deed. Everybody can guess his attitude easily, He can easily understand the reasoning of others. I want to associate with such a wise man because he will observe the precepts (moral ruels).
(6) "Oh . Sakka, may I receive much delicious food when the sun rises. May my property always be plentiful even while I donate a lot. May I rejoice while donating. May I not be penitent after donating."
(7) "Oh. Sakka, the last blessing I desire is not to meet you again because I worry that I may forget my austerity by seeing your elegant complexion.
These were the aspirations of the ascetic, Akitti. He did not want to have greed, hatred and bewilderment. He wanted to associate with the wise and not the foolish.
The Buddha, in his many previous lives as a bodhisatta made the same aspiration while fulfilling the ten perfections (Parami). He expressed this wish, "May my good deeds be the cause ofEhlightenment."
If the King of devas comes and says you that he will reward you with whatever you want, which blessing will you desire? I have presented the aspirations of the wise Akitti as a moral lesson.
Precisely two months after his Enlightenment at Buddhagaya on the full - moon day of Asalhi (July), the Buddha delivered the first discourse to group of five ascetics who had been His disciples previously.
This discourse was expounded by the Buddha, while He was residing at Deer Park in Isipatana, near Baranasi. The Intellectual five monks were closely associated with Buddha for six years in Uruvela forest before his enlightenment.
They were the only human beings that were present to hear the first sermon. Many other invisible beings such as devas and brahmas also were present on that great occasion. They took advantage of the golden opportunity of listening to the first sermon. The Buddha directly addressed His sermon to the five ascetics and the discourse was intended mainly for them.
Dhammacakka is the name given to this first discourse of the Buddha. Here in 'dhamma' means wisdom or knowledge and 'cakka' means founding or establishment. Therefore, Dhammacakka means the 'Founding of Wisdom, or the Establishment of Wisdom'. Dhammacakkapavattana means the Exposition of the Establishment of Wisdom. Dhamma may also be interpreted as Truth and cakka as wheel. Therefore, Dhammacakkapavattana would mean the Turning of the wheel of Truth.
In this most important discourse He cautioned His old disciples to avoid two extremes. His actual words were: "There two extremes which should not be resorted to by a recluse who has renounced the world".
One extreme was constant attachment to sensual pleasures.
The Buddha described this extreme as base, vulgar, worldly, ignoble and profit less. This extreme of self-indulgence retards spiritual progress of meditators.
Another extreme was self-motification which weakens the intellect. This extreme is not practised by the ordinary man. The Buddha remarked that it is painful, ignoble, and profitless. Unlike the first extreme this is not described as base, worldly, and vulgar. The Buddha had painful experience of this profitless course, described it as useless. It only multiplies suffering instead of diminishing it.
Ariya means Noble Ones who are free from passions. Attha means the Ultimate Good. For a Buddhist this is Nibbana, the complete emancipation from suffering. Therefore, 'anatthasamhita' may be interpreted as not conducive to ultimate good.
The Buddha said that by realizing the mistake of both these two extremes, He followed a middle path. He discovered this new path by Himself. The Buddha termed His new system "Majjhima patipada", the "Middle Path".
Unlike the two diametrically opposite extremes he rejected, this middle path produces spiritual insight and intellectual wisdom to see things as they truly are. When insight is clarified and the intellect is sharpened, everything is seen in its true perspective.
Furthermore, the Middle Path leads to the subjugation of passions and the multiplying of wisdom and peace. Above all it leads to the attainment of the four supramundane Path Knowledges of Sainthood, to the understanding of the Four Noble Truths and finally to the realization of the Ultimate Goal, Nibbana.
The Middle Path
Now, What is the Middle Path?
The Buddha replied: It is the Noble Eightfold Path.
Then He elaborated the eight factors of this Noble Path.
1. The first factor is Right Understanding. This is the key-note of Buddhism. The Buddha started with Right Understanding in order to clear the doubts of the group of five monks, and guided them on the right way.
Right Understanding deals with knowledge of oneself as one really is. It is explained as the knowledge the four Noble Truths also. These Truths are concerned with this "one-fathom long body of man". Right understanding of the first Noble Truth leads to the eradication of the second Noble Truth which is the origin of the first Noble Truth.
One who searches for supramundane happiness and final liberation must understand that the first Noble Truth is to be penetrated, the Second Noble Truth to be eradicated, the Third Noble Truth is to be realized and the Fourth Noble Truth is to be followed. This is the brief meaning of Right Understanding. The key-note of Buddhism is this Right Understanding.
2. Clear vision leads to clear thinking. The second factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, therefore, is Right Thinking. This mental state may be called "initial application". This important mental state eliminates wrong ideas or emotions and helps the other moral adjuncts to be directed towards Nibbana.
Samma Sankappa serves the double purpose of eliminating evil thoughts and developing pure thoughts. In this particular connection, Right Thought is three-fold.
I. Nekkhamma Sankappa - The Thought of Renunciation of worldly pleasures or the thought of selflessness. This is opposed to attachment, selfishness, and self-possessiveness.
II. Abyapada Sankappa - The thought of loving-kindness or benevolence which is opposed to hatred, ill-will, or aversion.
III. Avihimsa Sankappa - The thought of harmlessness or compassion, which is opposed to cruelty and callousness.
These evil and good forces are latent in all mankind. As long as we are worldlings, these evil forces rise to the surface at unexpected moments in disconcerting strength. When once they are totally eradicated on attaining full enlightenment, ones stream of consciousness becomes perfectly purified.
He whose mind is free from selfish desires, hatred and cruelty, and is saturated with spirit of selflessness, loving-kindness, and harmlessness, lives in perfect peace. He is indeed a blessing to himself and others.
3. Right Thought leads to Right Speech, the third factor. It deals with refraining from false speech, slandering, harsh words and frivolous talk.
People should be truthful and trustworthy and should ever seeks the good and beautiful in others, instead of deceiving, defaming, denouncing, or disuniting of others. A harmless mind generated by loving-kindness can not give vent to harsh speech which first defaces the speaker and then hurts another. Whatever his utterance is not only true, but it must also be sweet and pleasant, useful, fruitful, beneficial and acceptable by others.
4. Right Action follows after Right Speech, Right Action entails refraining from killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. These three evil deeds are caused by craving and anger, associated with ignorance. By the gradual eliminating of these causes from the mind, blameworthy actions will find no expression. Being pure in mind, a person will lead a pure life.
5. Right Livelihood: Purifying view, thoughts, words, and deeds at the outset, the spiritual pilgrim tries to purify his livelihood by refraining from the five kinds of trade which are for bidden to lay disciples. They are trading in I) weapons, 2) humans, 3) the slaughter of animals and 4) intoxicating drink and drugs. To show an appreciation for the beauty of life, all people should abstain from these five kinds of improper trade.
6. Right Effort is fourfold, namely:
I. The endeavour to prevent the arising of evils not yet arisen.
II. The endeavour to discard evil that has already arisen.
III. The endeavour to cultivate good not yet arisen.
IV. The endeavour to develop the good which has already arisen.
Right Effort plays a very important part in the Noble Eightfold Path. It is by ones own effort that deliverance is obtained; not by seeking refuge in others or by offering prayers.
Both a rubbish-heap of evil and a store-house of virtue are found in men. By Right Effort one removes the rubbish-heap and cultivates the seeds of latent virtues.
7. Right Effort is closely associated with Right Mindfulness. It is constant mindfulness with regard to body, feelings, thoughts and mind objects.
Mindfulness on these four objects tends to eradicate misconceptions with regard to desirability, so-called happiness, permanence and an immortal soul.
8. Right Effort and Right Mindfulness lead to Right Concentration, which is one-pointedness of mind. A concentrated mind acts a powerful aid to see things as they truly are by means of penetrative insight.
Of these eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, the, first two are grouped under Wisdom, the second three under morality, and the last three under concentration.
According to the order of development, Sila=morality, Samadhi=Concentration, and Panna=Wisdom are the three stages of the Noble Path.
All these factors denote the mental attitude of the aspirant who is striving to gain Deliverance.
Having prefaced the discourse with a description of the two extremes and His newly discovered Middle Path, the Buddha expounded the Four Noble Truths in detail.
Sacca is the Pali term for Truth which means what really is. Its Sanskrit equivalent is Satya which denotes an incontrovertible fact. The Buddha expressed definitely four such Truths, the foundations of His teaching, which are associated with the so-called being. Hence, His doctrine is homo-centric, in contrast to theo-centric religions. His teaching is inward looking rather than outward looking. Whether a Buddha arises or not, these Truths always exist. It is the Buddha who reveals these to the deluded world. Nobody can change them with time, space, or person, because they are Ultimate Truths. The Buddha did not depend upon anyone for His realization of the Noble Truths.
He Himself said in this discourse; - With regard to this Dhamma unheard before, there arose in me the eye; the knowledge, the wisdom, the insight and the light. These 'words are very significant, because they testify to the originality of His new teaching.
In Pali these truths are called Ariya Saccani. These were discovered by Ariya who is far removed from passions. Therefore, they are so- called Ariya Saccani=The Noble Truths.
The First Noble Truth
The First Noble Truth deals with dukkha which means suffering or misery. Here, "du" means emptiness and "kha" means feeling. Dukkha therefore means feeling of emptiness. Average men are only surface-seers.. An Ariya sees things as they truly are.
To an Ariya all life is suffering and he finds no real happiness in this world which otherwise deceives mankind with illusory pleasures. Material happiness is merely the gratification of some desire.
All beings are subject to birth (jati), decay (jara), disease (byadhi), and finally to death (marana). No one is exempt from these four causes of suffering.
In the discourse the Buddha said "Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, disease is suffering, death is suffering".
Unfulfilled wishes are also suffering. As a rule, every body wishes to be associated either with beloved persons or pleasant things. No body wishes to be associated with hated persons or unpleasant things. We always wish to be associated with persons or things we like. However, our cherished desires are not always gratified. At times what we least expect or least desire is thrust on us. Sometimes, such unexpected unpleasant circumstances become so intolerable and painful that weak ignorant people are compelled to commit suicide; as if such an act would solve the problems of life.
Real happiness is found within and it is not defined in terms of wealth, power, honours, or conquests. If such worldly possessions are forcibly or unjustly obtained or are misdirected or even viewed with attachment, they become a source of misery and sorrow for the possessors.
Normally the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest and only happiness for average people. There is no doubt some momentary happiness in the anticipation, gratification, and retrospection of such fleeting material pleasure, but this is illusory and temporary. According to the Buddha, non - attachment (viraga) to material pleasure, or transcending material pleasure is a greater bliss. In brief, this composite body of clinging is itself a great heap of manifold suffering.
The Second Noble Truth
It is said in the text, "It is this craving which produces rebirth, accompanied by passionate clinging, delight now here this life, then there that life. It is the craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence , and craving for non-existence".
There are three kinds of craving. The first is the grossest form of craving, which is simple attachment to all sensual pleasures (kamatanha). The second is attachment to existence (bhavatanha). The third is attachment to non-existence (vibhava tanha). Of the three, the second craving is attachment to sensual pleasures connected with the belief in eternalism (sassataditthi), and the third craving is attachment to sensual pleasures connected with the belief in nihilism. (ecchedaditthi).
Bhavatanha may also be interpreted as attachment to the realms of form and vibhavatanha as attachment to the formless realms. (rupatanha and arupatanha)
Craving is a powerful mental force latent in all beings. It is the chief cause of most of the miseries of life. This craving, gross or subtle, leads to repeated births in cycle of continuity of suffering. This craving makes beings cling to all forms of life.
Right Understanding of the first Noble Truth leads to the eradication of craving.
"The Third Noble Truth"
This is said in the discourse. "Now, 0 Bhikkhus, this is the Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering. It is the complete separation from, and destruction of, this very craving; its forsaking, renunciation, libration therefrom, and non-attachment thereto.
The Third Noble Truth states thatthere is a complete cessation of suffering which is Nibbana, the ultimate goal of Buddhists.
Nibbana can be achieved in this very life by the total eradication of all forms of craving. This Nibbana is to be realized by the eye of enlightenment by renouncing all attachment to the internal body and external world.
This First Truth of suffering which depends on this so-called being and various aspects of life, is to be carefully examined, analysed, and understood. This examination leads to a proper understanding of oneself as one really is.
The cause of this suffering is craving or attachment. It is stated in the Dhammapada; -
"From craving springs grief; from craving springs fear; for him who is wholly free from craving, there is no grief, much less fear." (v.216)
Craving leads to repeated births. This second Truth indirectly deals with past, present and future births.
This second Truth of craving which produces rebirth and which is original cause of suffering, is to be totally eradicated, uprooted and destroyed without exception.
This Third Truth of the cessation of suffering is to be realized by developing the Noble Eight Fold Path.
When a person develops properly the Noble Eight Fold Path, he can eradicate craving which is cause of suffering. When he eradicates craving, he can stop completely the continuous cycle of suffering. When this craving and this suffering are removed completely, one can realize Nibbana. This is the power of the Noble Eight Fold Path. This unique path is the only straight way to Nibbana. This Fourth Noble Truth is to be developed.
Expounding the four Noble Truths in various ways the Buddha concluded the discourse with the forcible words; "0 Bhikkhu, As long as the absolute true intuitive knowledge regarding these four Noble Truths under their three aspects, and twelve modes, was not perfectly clear to me, so long did I not acknowledge that I had gained incomparable Supreme Enlightenment.''
"When the absolute true intuitive knowledge regarding these Four Noble Truths become perfectly clear to me, then only did I acknowledge that I had gained incomparable Supreme Enlightenment."
"There arose in me the knowledge and insight; 'Unshakable is the deliverance of my mind, this is my last birth, and now there is no existence again."'
At the end of the discourse Kondanna, the senior of the five disciples, understood the Dhamma and attained the first stage of Sainthood whereby he realized that whatever is subject to origination all that is subject to cessation - Yam kinci samudaya dhammam sabbarm tam nirodha dhammam.
When the Buddha expounded the discourse of the Dhammacakka, the earth-bound deities exclaimed: "This excellent Dhammacakka, which could not be expounded by any ascetic, priest, god, Mara or Brahma in this world, has been expounded by the Exalted One at the Deer Park, in Isipatana, near Baranasi."
Hearing this, Devas and Brahmas of all the other planes also shouted the same in joyous chorus.
A radiant light, surpassing the light of gods, appeared in the world.
The light of the Dhamma illumined the whole world, and brought peace and happiness to all beings.
What the Best is?
By Rev. Adhipati Sayadaw
Sitagu International Buddhist Academy
By Takkasila Ashin Sumangala
There are numerous precious things in the world. Can you imagine what the most precious of them is? It is human rebirth. The2nd Chiddala Sutta, a sermon preached by the Buddha over 2500 years ago, gives the simile of the yoke and the blind turtle to explain why a human rebirth is so valuable. Imagine a yoke with a hole in its center was dropped into the ocean, and that the wind blew from everywhere moving the yoke along. And also imagine that in the ocean there also lived a blind turtle that only once in a hundred years rose to the surface of the water. Could the turtle put its head through the center of the yoke? How long would it take for that to happen? Such a coincidence is almost impossible. Similarly, the Buddha says, becoming a human being is a very rare event indeed.
Everyone who is born must one day die; this is an inexorable fact. Death will arrive sooner or later whether we are old or young, black or white, rich or poor, since it is inherent in every living thing. At best, human life is brief; and as indicated by the simile, the chances of returning soon to the human state after we die is very remote. Another reason why human life is so precious is that it provides us with the best opportunity to practise the path and attain the fruits of liberation. Animals and lower beings are not so fortunate, and neither are the gods of the form and formless realms. Thus, human rebirth is precious (dullabha) in three ways; it is rare and hard to attain, it is short-lived once attained, and it represents the best vehicle by which to gain liberation.
Having been reborn as a human being, how do we live properly in this life? The Buddha taught us the way to live, and it is applicable to all people regardless of their religious persuasion. The 'way' he taught is called the Eightfold Middle Path, and it comprises the training rules of the noble ones (ariyas).
In olden days, there were those who believed that the best way to live, and the best way to gain happiness, was to indulge in sensual pleasures, and to pass one's time in the enjoyment of luxuries and amusements. There were also those who believed quite the opposite; that the best way to live, and the best way to gain happiness was through self-mortification. But the Buddha came to realize through his own experience and enlightenment that both those ways were wrong; that they were unprofitable, unworthy, low and common.
Avoiding those two extremes, the Buddha discovered the Middle Path which consists of eight factors: 1) right understanding, or right view, 2) right thought, 3) right speech, 4) right action, 5) right livelihood, 6) right effort, 7) right mindful ness, and 8) right concentration. In Buddhism, this eightfold path leads to the ultimate goal of Nibbana, but it is also true that anyone, regardless of religion, can integrate these eight factors into his or her daily life and attain real happiness here and now.
1) The first thing that is required is to rightly understand the realities of existence, or we might say, the laws of nature. One of the laws that governs human life is the law of kamma; otherwise known as the law of cause and effect. The term 'kamma' refers to volition and volitional action. Demeritorious deeds motivated by greed, hatred and delusion result in suffering and pain for the doer. If actions are motivated by generosity, loving-kindness, and compassion, on the other hand, the effect for the doer will be happiness and peace. Another fact that must be understood is that there is no real soul, self or I of the individual. These are but conventional names applied to the two constituents of sentient existence; namely, mind and matter. If one can reduce one's habitual attachment to 'I and mine', it will result in wholesome states of mind devoid of selfishness, possessiveness and pride.
2) Thoughts that are free from sense desire and cruelty are what is meant by right thought. Sense desire is something like salty water. The more one drinks of it, the thirstier one gets. And the thirstier one gets, the more one has to drink, leading on and on in an endless circle. What is needed in this case is that whenever sense desire arises, one must become aware of it and let it go. By doing this, the mind becomes lighter and free of tension and disturbance. The same is true for ill-will or anger. Thoughts of ill-will should be recognized when they arise, and then let go. In their place, one should think thoughts of loving-kindness and compassion. In this way, one should one think rightly and never cause harm to others out of selfish sense desire or hatred.
3) Right speech, which is born of right thought, means to abstain from speaking that which is false, slanderous or abusive, and abstaining from frivolous talk. It means to speak instead that which is pleasant, true, beneficial and accept able by others. It means to speak at the right occasion in a way that is suitable to the listeners. Such speech will promote peace and harmony, and has the power to persuade others.
4) Right action means first to refrain from killing and causing pain to living beings. It also means to refrain from stealing or taking what is not given by others, and to refrain from sexual misconduct. Defined as having intercourse with someone else's wife, sexual misconduct actually refers to all sexual relationships outside of marriage. Right action comprises the basic moral principles that govern the social environment. By refraining from wrong action, a person's behavior will be pure and beyond reproach. In this way, such a person will also gain in social esteem and in self-confidence.
5) Right livelihood means abstaining from occupations which cause harm to humans or animals, and conducting one's business in an honest way. Unwholesome occupations include: the manufacture and/or sale of weapons, as well as intoxicants such as alcohol and drugs, and poison. Included also is the slaughter of animals, and the purchase and sale of human beings in slavery. There are those among us who while poor, earn their living through proper means; and as such, they are honorable and have great integrity. In contrast, some wealthy people earn their livelihood through racketeering, theft and so on; and as such, have no integrity whatsoever. Wealth itself is no measure of honor or morality.
6) Right effort is the energetic will to fulfill a task. It means not to do evil, to eradicate evil that one has already done, to do the good not already done, and to cultivate the good already done. No one can gain success without effort; or as the old saying goes, 'No pain, no gain." The Buddha emphasized that one should exert the proper amount of effort, neither too strong or too feeble. In other words, along with strong determination, one should have patience and balance. With such right effort, one can solve all of life's problems.
7 & 8) Right mindfulness and right concentration apply to the practice of meditation; otherwise called the cultivation of the mind. Right mindfulness means becoming aware of one's mind and body as they exist at the present moment. Right mindfulness is the foundation of insight meditation which is the means by which one purifies the mind and gains wisdom in successive stages leading to the final supramundane goal of Buddhism, Nibbana. Right concentration is the basis of tranquillity meditation through which one can psychic powers and temporary peace of mind. Insight and tranquillity meditation together are what constitute the cultivation of mind according to Buddhism.
By applying the Eightfold Path to his or her daily life, a person can live righteously and with propriety, and overcome the obstacles of human existence.
By Venerable Nandamalabhivamsa
We have two mental states that opposite to one another. They are Dosa and Metta. Dosa means anger or hatred in English. Metta means loving- kindness. Dosa is evil and harmful while Metta is good and beneficial.
Dosa hinders knowledge. While Dosa pervades one's mind he knows nothing in the correct perspective. The Buddha says: "An angry person knows not the welfare of himself and of others."
People love themselves. But they can commit suicide through Dosa. People love their fathers and mothers. But they can commit matricide and patricide while their minds are full of Dosa.The Buddha says: "An angry person commits matricide; and angry person commits patricide."
Dosa is a powerful destructive vice. It is a great destroyer in the world. Dosa is a mental state which often instigates crime.
Hatred proliferates hatred. One's hatred engenders hatred in another. An angry face cannot soften another's heart. "Hatred never ceases through hatred" says the Buddha.
Through hatred, we cannot construct "peace." Through hatred, we cannot live happy lives. Through hatred, we cannot make friends. Through hatred, we cannot unite a society.
Dosa (hatred), is harmful to peace. It is harmful to society. It is harmful to spiritual progress. This harmful Dosa, hatred, must be expelled from us.
How do we expel that extremely harmful hatred from us?
The Buddha taught us: "Mettamust be developed in order to expel Dosa, hatred."
What is Metta?
Metta is a mental state that is non-hatred or loving-kindness. Metta is defined as the spirit of a true friend. Metta is the sincere wish for the welfare and happiness of all living beings without exception.
Metta is compared to a mother's love towards her child. The Buddha says: 'just as a mother protects her only child even at the risk of her life, even so one I should cultivate boundless loving-kindness towards all living beings." The mother loves her own child. Mettahowever, loves all.
How do you make Metta grow in your heart?
First of all, you must think thus: You love yourself. So should you love others. You desire happiness and health. So should you think of other people's happiness and health.
To make Metta grow in your heart, you should always think of the others' lovable qualities. Don't try to find faults with others. Upon the others' lovable qualities make your Metta grow. Through finding faults, you cannot grow Metta in your heart. Tolerance and forgiveness fortify Metta against hatred.
You must keep your Metta alive in your heart. Try to feel love to all in mind at anytime, anywhere. Show always your Metta towards others through your physical actions. Show your Metta towards others through verbal actions. Render good for evil. Render help to those in need.
In the Buddhist way, if you develop your Metta you can attain the stage of Jhana.If you attain Jhana, the higher concentration, you will experience the eleven consequences of Metta.
When your heart is full of Metta:
If Metta prevails in your heart, there is no place for hatred, The Metta concentration paves the way to achieve insight knowledge. The insight knowledge leads to enlightenment. Through the enlightenment you can attain Nibbana, the supreme happiness;
May you all be happy!
May you all attain Nibbana!
( Discourse on Loving-kindness )
By U Nandiya
Once the Bhagava ( Lord Buddha) was staying at the Jetavana monastery in the pleasance of Anathapindika at Savatthi. A group of monks received permission from the Lord to meditate in a distant forest during the period of Buddhist Lent. Each of the monks took shelter under a big tree as a temporary residence and an engaged themselves intensively in the practice of meditation.
On account of the spiritual power of their meditation, the tree deities could not stay in their trees-abodes above the monks, so they had to come down to the ground. Realizing that the monks would spend the whole rainy season there, the deities were much annoyed. So they tried to scare the monks away during the night by harassing them in various ways.
After living under such impossible conditions for sometime, the monks could not bear it any longer and rushed back to the Buddha and informed him about their difficulties. So the Buddha advised them to recite the text of loving kindness (Metta Sutta) and to radiate the spirit of love to all beings. On the full-moon day of Wagaung, the Buddha taught the monks the Metta Sutta. From that day till now, the full-moon day of Wagaung has been called as the 'Great or Grand Occasion of Metta.
Encouraged by this discourse, the monks returned to their respective places. They practised in accordance with the instructions given them to permeate the entire atmosphere with radiant thoughts of love,
The tree-deities were much pleased to be affected by the power of love, and so let the monks (meditators) stay without any further disturbances.
Metta is the highest need of the world today, indeed it is more needed than ever before. Because in this new world, there are sufficient materials, money and brilliant wise men and scientists. In spite of these, there is no peace and happiness. It shows that something is lacking, That is Metta.
What is the Buddhist idea of Metta? The Pali word "Metta" means "loving kindness", not the ordinary, sensual, emotional, sentimental kind of love. Metta has been translated by modem translators into English as generous, mindness loving, loving kindness, sending out thoughts of love towards others" but according to the words of Buddha, Metta has a far wider significance, and a much more extensive implication than this. It means a great deal more than loving kindness harmlessness, sympathy.
What is love? Love is also defined in the Oxford Dictionary. According to it, love means warm affection, attachment, affectionate devotion, etc. These are synonymous terms for love and they all refer to sentimental worldly love. So, Metta has no full English equivalent. For this Metta is much more than ordinary affection or warm feelings. The Pali word Metta literally means "friendliness", but also means love without a desire to possess but with desire to help, to sacrifice self-interest for the welfare and well being of humanity. Metta is with out any selection or exclusion. If you select a few good friends and exclude a bad person, then you have not got a perfect grasp of Metta. Indeed Metta is not only benevolent thought, but also performing charitable deeds, an active ministry for the good of one and all.
In the "Metta Sutta" the Buddha has chosen the love of a mother for her child as an example. Imagine a mother's love when her child is hungry; she watches carefully to feed her child even be fore it asks her for food. When the child is in danger, she will risk her own life. So the Buddha taught us to love all beings as a mother loves her only child. If we can do this even to a small extent, the world will become happier and more peaceful place. In the Dighanikaya, it is said by the Buddha that almost every virtue such as unselfishness, loving sympathy and loving kindness is included in this "Metta".
Though we talked much about Metta and repeat the formula "Sabbe satta avera hontu, abyapajjha hontu etc;. "( May all sentient beings be free from danger; may they be free from oppression etc.), without Metta how can it be effective? This passage is not to be merely recited. The Buddha does not ask us to learn any of his teachings for recitation only. So the recitation of the "Metta Sutta" is good, but the Buddha did not mean it to be merely recited. He exhorted us to follow and practise the instructions in it so that we might realize Metta as the best state of heart in the world.
Therefore do not be satisfied with the mere recitation of the "Metta Sutta" but strive to know its meaning with a view to practising it and to make it suffuse your being. That is the most essential fact. Meditation does not mean merely to think about it, but to practise it in your daily life.
This discourse of loving kindness serves as a mark of protection and as a subject of meditation. In the first part of the discourse are found virtues that should be practised by anyone who desires his own welfare, and in the latter part the method of practising Metta or good will is explained in de tail. The Buddha taught us to follow and practise the following principles. He who is skilled in doing welfare, who wishes to attain the state of calm, (Perfect tranquility) must work to be efficient, upright, perfectly upright, easy to speak to, gentle and humble.
Contended, easily supportable, having few duties, simple in livelihood, controlled in sense prudent, modest and not greedily attached to families, he must not commit even the slightest sin for which other wise men might censure him. He must contemplate so: May all beings be happy, may all beings be secure, may all beings be happy. He must radiate the measureless thoughts of loving kindness to whatever living beings there may be; feeble or strong, tall, medium or short, small, medium or large, thin, medium or stout, seen or unseen, those dwelling far or near, those who are born and those who are to be born- may all beings, without exception, be happy.
Let none be angry with another, let him not despise anyone in any place. By means of physical and verbal provocation or by frustrated enmity, in anger or ill-will let him not wish another's suffering.
Just as a mother would protect at the risk of her own life the life of her only son, even so let him spread boundless loving kindness to every corner of the world; above, below and across, unhindered without any obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity.
While standing, walking, sitting or lying down, as long as he awake, without sloth (laziness) he should devote himself to this mindfulness of love. This, they say, is the "Highest Conduct" and this is called the "Noble living" (Holy life).
If the meditator, not falling into wrong-view (egoism), be virtuous and endowed with perfect insight, and expel his passion for sensual pleasure, then, of a truth, he will never be conceived in any womb again.
In the Dhammapada the Buddha said, "A beautiful word or thought which is not accompanied by corresponding acts is like a bright flower which bears no fruit. It would not produce any effect." So, it is action, not speculation, it is practice, not theory that matters. According to the Dhammapada, "will" if it is not followed by corresponding action does not count. Therefore, practice of the "Noble Principles of the Metta Sutta" is the essence of Buddhism.
In this connexion this "Metta" or Universal Love (Loving kindness) is generally taken to exist in connexion with other people, but in reality love for self comes first. It is not a selfish love, but love for self, pure love that comes first. By having pure love or "Metta" as we defined it for self; selfish tendencies, hatred, anger, will be diminished. Therefore, unless we ourselves possess "Metta" within, we can not share, radiate, send "Metta" to others. So meditation on love "Metta" is to be started within ourselves. According to Buddhism self-love comes first. By helping ourselves, we can help others effectively. The Buddha pointed out, "If a person cannot help himself well, he cannot help others well".
In the Dhammapada it says, "One should first establish oneself in what is proper then only he should advise another; such a wise-man will not be reproached!". If one cannot find happiness in himself, he cannot find happiness anywhere else. It is also said that people who cannot control themselves cannot find happiness.
According to the Buddhist method, training oneself comes first. Individual perfection must be first, so that the organic whole may be perfect. The state of the outer world is a reflection of our innerselves. The world is like a great mirror, and if you look at the mirror with a smiling face, you will see your own beautiful smiling face. If you look at it with a shrinking face, you will see your own ugly face. It means that "Every action must have equal and opposite reaction."
So if you treat the world properly, kindly, the world will treat you kindly. We should not expect other persons to treat us kindly first, we should start by ourselves treating them kindly,
This is the essence of Buddhist "Metta" Loving Kindness. "May all beings be happy, may all beings be secure, may all beings be happy minded and may their hearts be wholesome."
Sayadaw U Silananda
Abbot of Dhammananda Vihara, Half Moon Bay, California, USA
Lately I read about a motor car accident that happened on the California Highway 1 in Montara, a small town about 20 miles south of San Francisco. Two people in one car were killed in the accident, it was reported.
Although the cause has not yet been determined (as of July 17), it is obvious that the accident was caused by lack of mindfulness on the part of the drivers the two cars involved. If only they were mindful when driving, the two who died would be alive today. So the lesson from this unhappy accident is that lack of mindfulness can lead to death, while mindfulness can save lives.
Imagine hundreds of people who were killed through accidents on the roads in the United States, especially during holidays, and imagine further how their lives would be saved if only they were mindful during driving. I think no less than 90 percent of the accidents on roads of at homes or anywhere else--- can be attributed to unmindfulness of the persons involved. We can, therefore, see how valuable mindfulness is in saving lives. And it is actually not difficult to practice mindfulness, nor it is expensive to do so, in fact you don't need to spend a penny to practice it; what you need to do is just make a little effort to be mindful.
Stretching our thought, we can also see that mindfulness can wipe out crime, for if a person is mindful, really mindful, he or she would not do anything that is morally and ethically wrong. When people do not do that, it is morally and ethically wrong, crime has no place in our human society more peaceful; it fosters peace and harmony among the members of the society.
Mindfulness can also help us to avoid stress and tension, which according to the teachings of Buddhist Abhidhamma, are nothing but unwholesome mental states that arise in our minds. So long as our minds are occupied with the things or experiences that are the cause of these mental states, we will not be able to get rid of these states. But once we turn our minds from the causes of these states to these states themselves, these states which are the causes, disappear from our minds altogether. When the causes disappear, the results have to disappear too. Therefore, the best and sure way to deal with stress or tension is to practice mindfulness on them.
In Buddhist works, mindfulness is described as being similar to a guard. When a guard is standing at the gate, no undesirable persons can enter the property; in the same way, when there is mindfulness standing guard at the door of our minds, no unwholesome states can enter our minds.
Once we also mindfulness, these states invade our minds instantly. That is why Buddha said,
"Monks, this (mindfulness) is the only way for the purification (of mind) of beings.
In addition to practicing mindfulness yourself you can teach your children to practice mindfulness. If all the members of the family practice mindfulness, that family will live in happiness; if all the students in a class at a school practice mindfulness, even for as little as ten minutes a day, the teacher as well as the students will be delighted with the results. So a short period of practice of mindfulness in classes at schools will be highly beneficial.
What is this mindfulness we are talking about? It is the full awareness of what we are doing at the moment, whether we are driving or doing chores at home or working in offices and factories, and so on. Or in other words, we can say that mindfulness is consciousness of oneself or one's activities, mental or physical, that it is self-consciousness in the sense given in the American Heritage Dictionary, "self conscious, 3. Aware of oneself, or one's own being, actions or thoughts." So when you are conscious of yourself or your activities, you are said to mindful.
Just as mindfulness can help us in our daily activities, it can also help us in attaining our spiritual goals. In fact, mindfulness is the indispensable factor in the practice of Buddhist meditation which leads a practitioner step by step towards spiritual attainments. It is mindfulness that protects the mind from lapsing into agitation on the one hand and idleness on the other. It balances all the factors involved in meditation. It is, therefore, described as 'desirable in all instances as a seasoning of salt in all dishes.' In this respect, Buddha was perhaps the only religious leader who realized the great value of mindfulness and made it into a toll for achieving mental development and reaching enlightenment which consists in purification of mind. We can find the Buddha's blue print for this practice in the Discourse on the Four foundations of Mindfulness to which the reader is referred for a full treatment of the practice.
If you want to practice mindfulness for spiritual attainments, you'd better go to a place where you can have seclusion, away from the disturbing noises of cities. A meditation center where you can get authentic information about meditation and practice with confidence under the guidance of a competent teacher is the best place for serious practice of meditation.
Fortunately, especially for those around the City of Austin, Texas, such a center has now come into existence just a comfortable distance away from the City. This center will serve as both for the study of Buddha's teachings which are the basis of practice of Buddhist meditation, and for the actual practice of Buddha's teachings which Consists in the practice of meditation and others. I believe it will, in the future, develop into a Buddhist University where people can learn and study the teachings of the Buddha both in theory and in practice. It will be a center which will send out the cool breeze of the authentic teachings and peaceful messages of the Buddha to all parts of the world.
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