Sunday, 10 August 2014

MN79 The Shorter Discourse to Sakuludayin

In this sutta, the Buddha talks to some Jains. How do you attain "perfect splendour"?

The Jain answers that one should practise some kind of asceticism and abstain from killing, stealing, misconduct in sensual pleasures, lying.

The Buddha pointed out that, even when undertaking these practises, one can still experience pleasure and pain. So you cannot achieve perfect splendour just by following this route.

He went further, and said that that there was practical way to realise an exclusively pleasant world. Can you guess what it is? In case you hadn't guessed, it's this: "quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhana ... second jhana ... third jhana".

Section 27 is interesting. The Buddha says that it is at the fourth jhana that the meditator realises an exclusively pleasant world. He also say, somewhat curiously, "He dwells with those deities who have arisen in an entirely pleasant world and he talks with them and enters into conversation with them". The translator notes that this corresponds to the world of Refulgent Glory. This is a bit puzzling, because they are the ones that experience the third jhana. There seems to be an incompatibility there.

The Buddha then points out that it is not for the sake of the fourth jhana that he gives his teachings, for there are states higher than this.

When someone reaches the fourth jhana, they should direct their mind to the recollection of past lives, then to the knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings. A monk once explained to me that by recollecting past lives, one becomes unshakeably convinced about the mechanism of kamma. So it's not an activity for amusement's sake, it has a practical purpose in the attainment of the goal.

After that, he directs his knowledge to the destruction of the taints. "He understands as it actually is: 'This is suffering' ... 'this is the way leading to the cessation of taints' .... 'When he knows and sees this, his mind is liberated from the taint of sensual desire .... being ... ignorance'. He understands: 'Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, ...'" and so on. This is the purpose of the Buddha's teachings. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

MN78 Samanamandikaputta

Suppose someone has four qualities:

  1. he refrains from bodily evil actions
  2. he utters no evil speech
  3. he has no evil intentions
  4. he does not engage in evil livelihood
Does that make a man "accomplished"? According to the Buddha: no.He would simply be at the level of a tender infant, lying prone. That is to say, an infant would conform to all of the above strictures, but you wouldn't call him "perfected in what is wholesome".

The Buddha said that there are actually 10 qualities for a man to be "perfected in what is wholesome":
  1. right view of one beyond training
  2. right intention of ...
  3. right speech ...
  4. right action ...
  5. right livelihood ...
  6. right effort ...
  7. right mindfulness ...
  8. right concentration ...
  9. right knowledge ...
  10. right deliverance ...
. He must understand:
  1. the existence, origin, the cessation and practise leading to the cessation of unwholesome habits
  2. likewise for wholesome habits
  3. and unwholesome intentions
  4. and wholesome intentions
What are unwholesome habits? They are unwholesome bodily action, unwholesome verbal actions, and evil livelihood.

Where do they originate from? From the mind. What mind? A mind affected by lust, hate and delusion.

Where do these unwholesome habits "cease without remainder"? He abandons bodily misconduct and develops good verbal conduct. Likewise for verbal misconduct and wrong livelihood.

How does a bhikkhu practise the way to the cessation of unwholesome habits? He awakens zeal for the non-arising of evil unwholesome states, zeal for the abandonment of arisen evil unwholesome states, zeal for the arising of unarisen wholesome states, and zeal for the continuance of arisen wholesome states.

What are wholesome habits? They are wholesome, bodily actions, verbal actions, and purification of livelihood. They originate from a mind unaffected by lust, hate, or delusion.

Where do they cease without remainder? A bhikkhu is virtuous, but he does not identify with his virtue, and he understands it as such.

How does he practise the way to the cessation of wholesome habits? He awakens zeal for the non-arising of unarisen evil unwholesome states, for the continuance of arisen wholesome states.

What are unwholesome intentions? They are sensual desire, ill will, and cruelty. They originate from perception.

Where do they cease without remainder? By entering the first jhana

What are wholesome intentions? They are the intention of renunciation, non-ill will, and non-cruelty.

How do they originate? From perception.

Where do they cease without remainder? By entering the second jhana