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.

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