THE PATH TO ARAHATSHIP
An address by the Hon'ble U Nu, Prime Minister of the Union of Burma at Soojiji Temple, Tsurumi, Japan
Vol. III, No. 3, 1956
We find that there are two " schools" of Buddhism: "Mahayana" and "Theravada".
I feel very unhappy at this split and I have been thinking hard on the causes.
Is this due to the fact that those who profess different "sects" of Buddhism have had no opportunity of studying Buddhism as the Buddha taught ? Or is it due to the fact that the leaders of these various "sects" have had no opportunity of meeting together and discussing Buddhism with a view to bringing about one unified movement ? Or, again, is it due to the fact that the leaders of these sects as mere "Puthujjanas ", stick to their own beliefs without giving a thought to their rightness or wrongness ?
I must confess that I have not got the answer to these queries, and it is not at all easy to get the right answer. Of course, during my brief stay of four or five days in Japan, it will be hardly possible for me to find the correct answer. Therefore, let me relegate this task to the World Buddhist Federation in which you are participating. It will be in the interest of Buddhism if this Federation can form a Committee of representatives of all "sects" with a view to determining one single " School" of Buddhism. If it is the desire of this committee to open its headquarters in Burma, it will be our pleasant duty to provide accommodation and necessary expenditure. But while I am in Japan I want to pave the way for the emergence of one single "school" of Buddhism.
Only "Puthujjanas" are capable of believing in different " sects" of Buddhism "Ariyas" are not. I hope you all know that a Puthujjana is a person who has not yet become an Ariya. I will explain what is meant by an Ariya in the course of my speech. So, if it is our desire to see only one" School" of Buddhism, and not diversified sects, the best means of achieving this is to make the Buddhists "Ariyas".
You may well ask the following questions: -
Can one become an "Ariya" in these times ?
Is it difficult to become an "Ariya" ?
One can become an "Ariya" in these times. If only one practises the Buddha's teachings in the right manner, one can become an "Ariya" in any time. The Buddha said in unequivocal terms that the days of "Ariyas" would never be over.
The Buddha also said in unequivocal terms that the practice of Buddhism would be rewarded at any time, and that one who practised Buddhism would discover the truth of the Dhamma in one's own life time.
In the circumstances, is it difficult to practise Buddhism with a view to discovering the truth ? My answer is in the negative. One need not have a sharp intellect to become an "Ariya"; any one who believes in the Dhamma and who has the necessary tenacity to practise it can become an " Ariya ".
There are four types of Ariya
Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami and Arahat.
Sotapanna is the first stage of an Ariya, and a person who has reached this stage will enjoy the following advantages—
(a) Puthujjanas are apt to relish evil actions, evil expressions and evil thoughts more than good actions, good expressions and good thoughts. Therefore, there are more chances for a Puthujjana, after death, to go to one of the four nether planes of Existence called Apaya than to go to one of the higher planes of Existence. But a person in spite of his or her evil actions, evil expressions and evil thoughts in the past, will not go to any of the four nether planes of Existence, once he or she becomes a Sotapanna.
(b) If one persists in one's own life time, he or she can be an Arahat, and attain Anupadisesa-Nibbana. Even if a Sotapanna cannot persist in his or her practice and fails to become an Arahat in this life time, then a rebirth in one of the higher planes of Existence, the human plane, six planes of Lower Spiritual Beings (Deva) or twenty planes of Brahmas, Higher Spiritual Beings, is assured.
After at most seven rebirths in these higher planes, he or she is sure to attain Nibbana. A Sotapanna can never be reborn for the eighth time.
(c) Since the above facts relate only to one's hereafter, you may perhaps doubt their validity. Therefore I want to tell you what a Sotapanna comprehends very vividly even in his or her own lifetime. As soon as a person becomes a Sotapanna, the characteristic tendency of the human mind to doubt will become completely annihilated.
Whether a person is a Buddhist, or a Christian or of any other religion, he is assailed by doubts as to the truth or otherwise of his religion. This is the natural tendency of the human mind. The truth of this statement can be checked up by self-examination. A person who has become Sotapanna will no longer be assailed by such doubts. Anyone who. has reached that state will discover for himself that doubts no longer persist in him.
Besides these, a Sotapanna is simply incapable of taking life, theft, seduction, falsehood, taking liquor and drugs, and so forth. He or she is also incapable of evil actions, evil expressions or evil thoughts which can lead him to one of the four nether planes of existence. A Sotapanna will discover these facts for himself. I have come across in stances of many bad men undergoing a great transformation as soon as they reached the stage of Sotapanna.
Besides these, a Sotapanna can enjoy the bliss of "Phala" commensurate with the strength of mental awareness which he or she possesses. "Phala" is really an extraordinary phenomenon. I have seen with my own eyes a Sotapanna who was in the stage of "Phala" for five consecutive days. Besides the normal action of breathing, he became completely oblivious to senses and his whole body became as stiff as a rock. The most surprising fact about him was that for five consecutive days he did not answer the calls of nature, did not eat nor drink and sat still like a rock.
You may well ask for how long one has to practise to become a Sotapanna. My answer is that if only one has the necessary tenacity, one need not take longer than one or one and a half months to become a Sotapanna.
You may then ask what processes have to be undergone even if one has the necessary tenacity.
While doing the mental exercises, one can sit on the floor, or on a chair, or lie down, or walk. Posture is not essential. What is essential is that he must strengthen his sense of "awareness". There are several methods of strengthening one's sense of awareness, and I would suggest that you adopt whatever method is most convenient to you when you practise. But let me present to you one or two methods for the sake of clarification.
Let us take, for example, our normal process of breathing. When we inhale or exhale, we will notice that air passes through our nostrils. When we inhale and air passes in, make-a mental note, "passes in ". In the same way, when we exhale and air passes out, make a mental note, "passes out ". This mental awareness must be kept up as the air passes in and out, and it is essential that your mind does not waver from it.
It may sometimes happen that you may be distracted from this awareness by a certain sound, a certain sight, a certain taste, a certain smell, a certain touch or a certain thought. When such distraction takes place, it is imperative that you make a habit of being aware of this distraction. As soon as you become aware of this distraction, come back to your mental awareness of the air passing in and out of your nostrils.
A sustained practice will enable you to be constantly aware of whatever you see, hear, eat, see, touch or think. After some time, you will be fully aware of even your smallest actions such as bending or stretching your hands, lifting your legs or stepping forward. This sense of awareness will be always with you. Once this "awareness"is strengthened, you will experience, in stages, Eleven Kinds.. of Mental Realization or Nanas.
(1) Namarupa Pariccheda Nana (Knowledge to determine Physical and Mental phenomena).
(2) Paccaya Pariggahana Nana (Knowledge determining the relations of one phenomenon to another).
(3) Sammasana Nana (Knowledge to observe, explore and determine all phenomena of 'existence' as impermanent, miserable and impersonal).
(4) Udayabbaya-nana (Knowledge consisting in Contemplation of Arising and Vanishing).
(5) Bhanga-nana (Knowledge in Contemplation of Dissolution).
(6) Bhaya-nana (Knowledge of Awareness of Fear).
(7) Adinava-nana (Knowledge in Contemplation of Misery).
(8) Nibbida-nana (Knowledge in Contemplation of Aversion).
(9) Muccitu-kamyatta-nana (Knowledge in the Desire for Deliverance).
(10) Patisankha-nana (Knowledge of the Reflection of Contemplation).
(11) Sankharupekkha-nana (Knowledge in Equanimity in regard to all formations of existence).
I will not attempt to explain the significance of these Nanas. Let those who embark on the spiritual exercise of awareness find out the truth for themselves. After passing through these eleven mental states of "awareness", as soon as one reaches the twelfth stage, one becomes a Sotapanna. Everyone who becomes a Sotapanna will be convinced that he is on the right track, and he will no longer entertain hazy ideas. If that person continues with his practice of awareness, he will reach the next stage of a Sakadagami. There is no great difference between a Sotapanna and a Sakadagami, but in a person who becomes an Anagami, sexual desire and anger will be completely annihilated. There will be no one anywhere who can cause the slightest anger or sexual desire to appear in him what ever the provocation. Fear will also be totally absent in him. But, an Anagami still has one desire remaining in him, namely, to reach the Plane of Existence of the Higher Spiritual Beings.
When this Anagami continues with his practice of awareness, he reaches the stage of an Arahat when he will no longer have any desire at all, not even that desire to reach the Plane of Existence of the Higher Spiritual Beings. In an Arahat there is no more any kind of anger, desire of ignorance, and he will no longer be subjected to a chain of rebirths after death.
Please do not ask me what happens to a person who is not reborn after death. No one will be able to give a convincing reply to any person who keeps on posing this question.
But, one who reaches stage of a Sotapanna will have the answer to such questions and a Sotapanna will not pose any such questions at all.
I have now paved the way to forge one single 'School' of Buddhism. And you are now in a position to examine without difficulty whether this is the correct way or not.
Let me request you with all emphasis at my command to put this to the test. If you do, you will not only do away with diversified "schools" of Buddhism; but you will also be doing a good service to yourselves by doing away with all causes that lead to a chain of rebirths in the Four Nether Planes of Existence.
If you persevere in your practice of awareness with tenacity, you attain the state of Arahat in this existence, and Nibbana will be your immediate reward. Even if you cannot try to become an Arahat in this existence, as a Sotapanna, you will be reborn at most seven times. You will under no circumstances be reborn for the eighth time.
I suggest that ten most suitable Japanese chosen and selected carefully by the World Federation of Buddhists, should come to Rangoon for the purpose of personally putting the doctrine to proof by actual practice of the spiritual exercises. When they reach Rangoon, they will be my guests. These ten persons will come back to Japan after they have practised the required course of spiritual exercises and will relate to the Japanese people their experience and their findings.
May you be blessed with all good "Mangalas".
May "Samma Devas "(Noble Spiritual Beings) give you protection.
May you be able to try to become Arahats, with the blessings of the Three Sacred Gems.
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