Thursday, 31 July 2014

MN76: To Sandaka

In MN76.51, Ananda sates that an arahant is incapable of committing 5 transgressions deliberately:

  1. killing
  2. stealing
  3. having sex
  4. lying
  5. storing up food provisions and other pleasurable goods and subsequently enjoying them
This is almost like the 5 precepts, although the the drinking of intoxicants seems to be omitted. The five things are possibly not exhaustive, though, as the book's translator notes that DN 29.26/iii 133 that there are four other things that the arahant cannot do: he cannot take a wrong course of action because of desire, hatred, fear, or delusion.

I have heard elsewhere that an arahant is incapable of breaking any of the monastic precepts (of which there are a lot), with the single exception that he might inadvertently eat after mid-day. Take that with a pinch of salt, though.

It is interesting to note that it is commonly held that a stream-entrant cannot break the 5 precepts. It would be good if someone could produce a reference to the canon that backs this up.

In76.52, Ananda tells us that although an arahant has destroyed all the taints, this fact is not continuously and uninterruptedly present to him. "He knows 'My taints are destroyed' only when he reviews this fact".

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

MN74: Dighanakha Sutta

Dighanakha was a wanderer who went to the Buddha, and espoused the view "Nothing is acceptable to me". The Buddha pointed out a flaw in his logic: namely at least that view must be be acceptable to him. The Buddha expanded on this further. A person may have one of the following views:

  • Everything is acceptable to me
  • Nothing are acceptable to me
  • Some things are acceptable, other not
However, when you latch onto a certain view, you are bound to create clashes with people who hold an incompatible view. Considering thus, a person relinquishes those views. 

The translator notes that this causes Dighanakha to discard his view, and opens up the way for the Buddha to teach about impermanence of body, and then mental factors. Here's how it goes ... 

MN74.9: "this body made of material form, consisting of the four great elements, procreated by a mother and father, and built up out of boiled rice and porridge, is subject to impermanence, to being worn and rubbed away, to dissolution and disintegration. It should be regarded as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumour, as a dart, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as void, as not self. When one regards this body this, one abandons desire for the body, affection for the body, subservience to the body".

In MN74.10, the Buddha expounds the three different forms of feeling: pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. The feeling change from occasion to occasion, and are mutually exclusive on any particular occasion. We can therefore say that they are "impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing, fading away, and ceasing".

When you see things this way, the mind becomes disenchanted with feelings - in other words, disillusioned, "disappointed by something previously respected". Being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate (i.e. impartial, calm, uninfluenced). Through dispassion his mind is liberated. He knows it is liberated, and that "Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being".

Having heard that, Sariputta was "liberated from the taints" (i.e. he attained arahantship), whilst Dighanakha attained "the spotless immaculate vision of the Dhamma [the 'Dhamma Eye']: 'All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation' ... he crossed beyond doubt, did away with perplexity, gained intrepidity, and became independent of others in the Teacher's Dispensation". In other words, he attained the fruit of stream-entry.

This is a very good sutta, because it gives a condensed account of the causal chain of realisations that lead to stream-entry.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

MN62 The Greater Discourse of Advice to Rahula

Material form, feeling, perception, formations and consciousness should be seen as "This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self".

The elements are, with examples of internal components:

  • earth. e.g. skin, bones. 
  • water. e.g. blood, sweat, tears, urine
  • fire. something eaten or drunk. It warms, ages, and is consumed
  • air, e.g. wind in bowels, the breath
  • space. e.g. the orifices
The elements can be either internal or external. The internal elements are whatever "belongs to oneself". I have given some examples of internal elements. The external elements are whatever is not internal.

The elements should be seen as what they are: "This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self".

The Buddha encourages Rahula to develop meditation that is like each of these elements. For example, people throw both clean and dirty things onto the earth, but the earth is not repulsed by this. People wash clean and dirty things in water, but the water, too, is not repulsed by this. And so on for fire, air and space.

He also recommended other meditation:
  • loving-kindness. Ill will be abandoned from this
  • compassion. Cruelty will be abandoned.
  • altruistic joy. Discontent will be abandoned
  • equanimity. Aversion will be abandoned
  • foulness. Lust will be abandoned
  • mindfulness of breathing. 
The Buddha summarises the mindfulness of breathing meditation
  • become aware of your breathing
  • train to "experience" and "tranquilise" the whole body
  • then likewise to rapture
  • then mental formation
  • mind. This has a few more steps to it. "I shall breathe in experience the mind" and "I shall breathe out experiencing the mind". But you should also train at gladdening, concentrating and liberating the mind.
  • contemplate impermanence
  • then fading away
  • then cessation
  • then relinquishment