Word of the Buddha
We come to the Fourth Noble Truth today. It will occupy the rest of the book. Among the Four Noble Truths the fourth is the most important because it is what is to be developed or what is to be practiced. With regard to the Four Noble Truths there are functions to be made. With regard to the First Noble Truth, the Noble Truth of Suffering, the function is to fully understand. With regard to the Second Noble Truth the function is to abandon. With regard to the Third Noble Truth, which is NibbÈna, the function is to realize. With regard to the Fourth Noble Truth the function is to develop or to practice. This is the Path or the Way leading to the cessation of suffering. So it is the most important of the four.
The two extremes and the Middle Path were taught by the Buddha in his first sermon. Buddha taught the first sermon to his five disciples, to his attendants. “To give oneself up to indulgence in Sensual Pleasure, the base, common, vulgar, unholy, unprofitable: both these two extremes, the Perfect One has avoided, and has found out the Middle Path, which makes one both to see and to know, which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to NibbÈna.” The Buddha spoke about the extremes at the beginning of that first sermon. One is indulgence in sensual pleasures. The Buddha called the path of sensual pleasures ‘base, common, vulgar, unholy, unprofitable’. Here ‘base’ means inferior or mean. Actually we should note that the PÈÄi word used here is ‘hÊna’. It is the same word that we find in the word ‘HÊnayÈna’. HÊna is used actually in a derogatory sense - base, inferior, despicable and so on. That is why it is not right, not good to call TheravÈda Buddhism and other forms of Buddhism, rather than MahÈyÈna Buddhism, ‘HÊnayÈna’. So the Buddha described this one extreme, which does not lead to enlightenment or lead to the realization of NibbÈna, as base, common, vulgar, unholy, unprofitable
There is another extreme which is self-mortification. Here the Buddha did not use the word ‘base’ or ‘hÊna’. That is because self-mortification is supposed to be very difficult to practice. It is admired by many people. So it is painful, it is holy, and it is unprofitable.
These two extremes Siddhattha practiced before he became the Buddha. When he was a prince, he followed the path of sensual pleasures. He had a wife. He had many sensual pleasures. He enjoyed these for how many years?
Student: 29 years.
Teacher: Yes. He enjoyed married life for 13 years. During those years he was following the path of indulgence in sensual pleasures. Then next he practiced self-mortification. He practiced what is called in the PÈÄi books ‘dukkha cariya’ (practice which is difficult to practice). That includes self-mortification. The practice of meditation which the Buddha did for six years in the forest was mostly self-mortification. Sometimes he stopped breathing. Then he suffered a lot of pain in the head, in the stomach and so on. Also he reduced eating little by little. He ate just a handful of pea soup or sometimes maybe one fruit. That was self-mortification. That too does not lead to the attainment of NibbÈna. So it is described as painful ( really painful), unholy and unprofitable. “Both these two extremes the Perfect One has avoided.” After practicing for six years the Bodhisatta came to know this practice was the wrong path. This practice would not lead to the extinction of suffering. So he discarded the practice of self-mortification.
“And (the Perfect One) has found out the Middle Path.” How did he find out the Middle Path? When his practice did not take him any nearer to his goal, he reviewed his practice, and he found out that it was not the way to attain NibbÈna. Then he remembered having entered into the first jhÈna when he was a mere child. When he was a child, a very young child, his father, King Suddhodana, had a plowing ceremony. At that ceremony he was left by the nurses under a tree. When nobody was around, that young child sat up and practiced breathing meditation. It is said in the books that he attained the first jhÈna at that time. The Bodhisatta remembered that experience. He thought to himself: “When I was in that jhÈna, it was very peaceful. That might be the right path.” Then he decided that it was the right path. So he tried to follow that path. But at that time he was so emaciated, so weak that he could not practice. So he again ate food. When he began to take food again, the five disciples, who were attending him and who were expecting him to become the Buddha, were disillusioned with Siddhattha because they thought that he had fallen from a good practice. So they deserted him and went to another place. After that Prince Siddhattha was alone in the forest. He ate food to gain strength. When he became strong enough, he practiced meditation. On the full moon day of May he became the Buddha. After becoming the Buddha, he spent eight weeks under the Bodhi tree or around the Bodhi tree. Then he walked 18 yojanas it is said in our books, maybe more than a hundred miles. He walked on foot to where the five disciples were staying, that is at Deer Park, Isipatana. After he reached there, he convinced them that he had become the Buddha. He had some difficulty convincing them. At first they did not believe that he had become the Buddha. At the end he was able to convince them. Then he gave his first sermon - Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Law or the Wheel of Dhamma.
So he found out or he discovered this Middle Path. Then he practiced it himself and he became the Buddha. He got the best results from this practice. Later on he taught this Middle Way or Middle Path to whomever came to him for guidance. And this Middle Path makes one both to see and to know. It will give you knowledge and vision which leads to peace. It will lead to peace, to discernment. That means also to understand things as they really are, to enlightenment and to NibbÈna.
There are three ways - the way of sensual pleasures, the way of self-mortification, and the Middle Way or Middle Path. The Middle Path is not a combination of the two, or half of one and half of the other. It is totally different from these two.
This Middle Path consists of eight factors. “It is the Noble Eightfold Path, the way that leads to the extinction of suffering.” These eight factors you may already understand. The first one is Right Understanding. The PÈÄi word is SammÈ DiÔÔhi. The second is Right Thought (SammÈ Sankappa). The third is Right Speech (SammÈ VÈcÈ). The fourth factor is Right Action (SammÈ Kammanta). The fifth factor is Right Livelihood (SammÈ ŒjÊva). The sixth factor is Right Effort (SammÈ VÈyÈma). The seventh factor is Right Mindfulness (SammÈ Sati). The eighth factor is Right Concentration (SammÈ SamÈdhi). These are the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path or the Middle Way.
These eight factors are grouped into three groups. Right Understanding and Right Thought are grouped as what? Wisdom. Factors #3, #4, #5 are grouped as sÊla group (morality). Factors #6, #7, #8 are grouped as concentration group (samÈdhi). “This is the Middle Path which the Perfect One has found out, which makes one both see and know, which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to NibbÈna.” These are the eight factors of this Path. That is why the Path is called ‘The Eightfold Path’. In PÈÄi it is called ‘AÔÔhangika Magga’. These factors will be explained in detail later.
Then there are notes of the author. “The figurative expression ‘Path’ or ‘Way’ has been sometimes misunderstood as implying that the single factors of that Path have to be taken up for practice, one after the other in the order given.” So we are not to practice these eight factors one after the other beginning with Right Understanding and then going to Right Thought and so on. We do not go in that order. “In that case Right Understanding, i.e. the full penetration of Truth, would have to be realized first, before one could think of developing Right Thought, or practicing Right Speech, etc. But in reality the three factors (3-5), forming ‘Morality (sÊla)’ have to be perfected first.” That is because in the Buddha’s blueprint for spiritual development sÊla comes first. SÊla is the foundation on which samÈdhi and paÒÒÈ are built. Since sÊla is the foundation, it has to be perfected first. “After that one has to give attention to the systematic training of mind by practicing the three factors (6-8) forming the section ‘Concentration (samÈdhi)’; only after that preparation, man’s character and mind will be capable of reaching perfection in the first two factors (1-2) forming the section of ‘Wisdom (paÒÒÈ)’.”
“An initial minimum of Right Understanding, however, is required at the very start, because some grasp of the facts of suffering, etc., is necessary to provide convincing reasons, and an incentive, for a diligent practice of the Path. A measure of Right Understanding is also required for helping the other Path Factors to fulfill intelligently and efficiently their individual functions in the common task of liberation. For that reason, and to emphasize the importance of that factor, Right Understanding has been given the first place in the Noble Eightfold Path.” Although it is given at the head of the list, the real right Understanding comes at the end. But a certain amount of Right Understanding, not the highest form of Right Understanding, but a certain kind of Right Understanding is necessary in order to be able to practice. Therefore the author said that Right Understanding is at the beginning and the end.
“This initial understanding of the Dhamma, however, has to be gradually developed, with the help of the other Path factors, until it reaches finally the highest clarity of insight (vipassanÈ) which is the immediate condition for entering the four Stages of Holiness and attaining NibbÈna.”
“Right Understanding is therefore the beginning as well as the culmination of the Noble Eightfold Path.” Among these eight factors the middle three (3-5) are called ‘Morality Group’, or ‘Section of Morality’, or ‘Section of SÊla’. They have to be practiced first. Then we practice factors #6, #7, #8 (Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration). When these factors mature, then Right Understanding and Right Thought will be perfected.
When you are practicing meditation, which factors are working? Strictly speaking, factors #3, #4, #5 are already practiced. These eight factors are actually mental factors. Among the cetasikas these three mental factors actually do not arise at the moment of the practice of meditation. That is because they have been perfected before you practice meditation. That is why the other five are called ‘working factors’ or ‘workers’. They are always working. That is factors #1, #2, #6, #7, and #8. When your meditation is good, these five factors must be present. You make effort. You apply mindfulness to whatever is at the present moment. You have concentration. You have understanding or penetration into the nature of things. In order for understanding to arise you need what is called ‘Right Thought’. We will come to that later. ‘Right Thought does not mean thinking of something. It is a mental factor that takes your mind to the object. ‘Right Thought’ here means initial application. Without this mental factor the mind cannot be on the object. In order for the mind to be on the object we need Right Thought. It takes the mind to the object. When the mind has reached the object, mindfulness and concentration can keep the mind there. At that moment understanding arises. At every moment of good meditation these five must be working perfectly and evenly, one not in excess of the other. Right Effort and Right Concentration must be balanced. Especially Right Effort and Right Concentration must be balanced. What is important is the balance of effort and concentration. If there is too much effort, you lose concentration. You become agitated. If there is too much concentration in your meditation, you become lazy or you become sleepy. These two have to be balanced. It is very delicate. We will talk more about this later on. Among the eight factors the important ones are #1, #2, #6, #7, #8. They should be [resent at every moment of mindfulness meditation.
“Free from pain and torture is this path, free from groaning and suffering: it is the perfect path.” That is because you do not torture yourself. So it is free from pain and torture. But in actual practice you will experience pain. But that pain cannot be compared to the pain you experience when you practice self-mortification, like lying on nails or keeping your hand up for a long time. So this path is free from torture, free from groaning and suffering; it is the perfect path.
Student: Is the division of sÊla, samÈdhi and paÒÒÈ something the Buddha articulated or is it a pedagogic classification?
Teacher: The Commentaries grouped them like that.
Student: Why is it a path and not a circle since we use the image of the wheel with eight spokes? They all have to work together. Why wasn’t it called ‘the eight-spoked wheel’?
Teacher: In PÈÄi it is just called ‘AÔÔhangika Magga’. That means having eight parts. ‘Anga’ means part. So ‘aÔÔhangika’ means having eight parts, not spokes. Later on a wheel was used as a symbol for the Dhamma. Actually the PÈÄi word does not mean spokes, but just parts. Eight-limbed Path - so there are eight things in this Path. Just that. So there is no torture or pain in this Path.
“Truly, like this path there is no other path to the purity of insight.” This is very important. In the MahÈ SatipaÔÔhÈna Sutta the Buddha said: “EkÈyano ayaÑ bhikkhave maggo. Monks, this is the only way for the purification of beings” and so on. Now, I have met with resistance when I say that this is the only way. People say that it cannot be the only way. There should be many ways to NibbÈna. Some people try to translate ‘ekÈyano’ as something other than ‘the only way’. In the Commentary also more than one meaning is given. These are the words of the Buddha. Here the Buddha firmly said that this is the path; there is no other path to purity of insight. This is found in the Dhammapada. On the strength of this verse we can safely translate the word ‘ekÈyano’ as the only path. SatipaÔÔhÈna is the only path for the purification of beings. There can be no other path, but SatipaÔÔhÈna can be practiced in many ways. If you have read the MahÈ SatipaÔÔhÈna Sutta, you know that. There are 14 different ways to practice on the body. And then one may practice on the feelings, on consciousness and on the other objects. You can practice in different ways, but whatever way you practice, it should be mindfulness meditation. This is the only way for the purification of beings and so on.
So I told people that it is something like saying physical exercise is the only way to build muscles. You may practice physical exercise with weights. Now there are many devices. You may use all these, but whatever device that you use, you are doing physical exercise. Without physical exercise you cannot have big muscles. It is something like that. Sometimes analogies are very misleading. When I want to go to San Francisco, I can take highway 101, or highway 280, or maybe if I come from some other direction I would have to take some other route. That is not the analogy here. Here if you want to build muscles, then you have to practice physical exercise. What about people who do not formally take up physical exercise, but whose muscles are big like those who have to work with their bodies? They may not know that is also physical exercise. They may not be doing it as physical exercise, but what they are doing is physical exercise. Like picking up heavy loads, that is something like weight lifting.
So sometimes you may not know that you are practicing SatipaÔÔhÈna meditation, but you are practicing SatipaÔÔhÈna meditation if you really concentrate on the thing at the present moment. Such practice may be found in other teachings too. Maybe they have another name for it. They may have more or less the same kind of practice such as concentration on things in the mind or the body. So they may be doing the same things we do. But if it is not SatipaÔÔhÈma, the foundation of mindfulness, it cannot lead to the purification of beings and so on. This is a very important passage. “Truly, like this path there is no other path to the purity of insight.” Buddha expressly says in this verse that this only is the path; there is no other path. “If you follow this path, you will put an end to suffering.”
“But each one has to struggle for himself, the Perfect Ones have only pointed out the way.” This passage is also very often quoted. In the teachings of the Buddha you have to do yourself. The Buddha will not practice for you. The teacher cannot practice for the student and the student cannot practice for the teacher. So you have to do it yourself. Buddhas are just teachers. They are just instructors. “The Perfect Ones have only pointed out the way.”
It is like a teacher in school. A teacher can teach the students, but he cannot study for the students. He cannot say to his students: “You enjoy yourselves and I will study for you.” Buddhas are like that. We cannot get any benefit directly from the Buddha. He instructed us. If we follow his instructions, his practice, then we will get the benefits.
Student: So that applies to monks and to laypersons?
Teacher: Oh, to everybody.
Student: So monks have a special line to the Buddha? Is it like a special Sa~gha? Is that because maybe they are living more purely?
Teacher: A monk’s life is more favorable for the practice of the Buddha’s teachings. But both laypeople and monks can practice his teachings. Anybody can practice his teachings and anybody can get results from the practice. With regard to practice monks may be in a more advantageous position because they have more time to devote to the practice or study. They lead a life which is relatively stress-free, not totally stress-free. So they may be in a better position.
You know I told the story of 30 monks who went to a place and met a woman. She had huts built for them. On day she went to the monks and asked them why they did not speak to each other. They said that they were practicing meditation. It is not that we are quarreling, but that we are practicing meditation. So we do not want to talk aimlessly. Then she said: “Can meditation be practiced by monks only?” or “Can I practice meditation?” Then they said: “Yes.” And she said: “Please teach me.” So they taught her a subject of meditation. She practiced meditation and she became enlightened first. So it is open to anybody. With regard to practice no one is more privileged than any other.
“Give ear then, for the Deathless is found.” These are the words by which the Buddha convinced the five disciples. When he approached their place, they made an agreement. “Siddhattha is coming. He has fallen from the practice and he is now coming to us. Let us not greet him or take his robes and bowl. We will just leave a place. If he wants to sit, then he can sit.”
But when the Buddha really approached them, they could not do this. One greeted him. One took his bowl. One brought water for washing the feet and so on. Then the Buddha sat down and said: “I have become the Buddha.” Then they said: “We do not believe you. Even when you were practicing very hard, you did not become the Buddha. Now you have taken food again. You have gained weight. You cannot have become the Buddha.”
Then the Buddha asked them: “Did I ever tell you that I had become a Buddha when you were expecting me to become a Buddha?” They said: “No.” He said: “Now I have really become a Buddha.”
“Give ear then, for the Deathless is found, I reveal, I set forth the Truth. As I reveal it to you, so act! And that supreme goal of the holy life, for the sake of which sons of good families rightly go forth from home to the homeless state: this you will, in no long time, in this very life, make known to yourself, realize and make your own.” So he is saying that if you listen to me and if you follow my advice, you will become enlightened, something like that. Buddha was able to convince them. So when they were ready to accept his teachings, he taught the first sermon. At the end of the first sermon Venerable KondaÒÒa became a SotÈpanna. On the following days the other four became SotÈpannas. On the fifth day they assembled and the Buddha preached to them the second Sutta, the AnattalakkhaÓa Sutta, the Sutta on non-self. They all became Arahants at that time.
Student: Bhante, could you say a word about the significance of hearing. It seems there was a book that came out recently on whether in fact the Buddha was a divine guru and that people only became enlightened if they heard his words. It talks about the prominence of the word ‘hearing’. People would hear a sermon and suddenly become SotÈpannas. Could you say something about that?
Teacher: In many Suttas and also in the Commentaries it is stated that at the end of the discourse thousands of people became SotÈpannas, SakadÈgÈmis and so on. These people seemed to get immediate results by hearing the Buddha speak. Actually enlightenment cannot come without vipassanÈ. Strictly, according to Abhidhamma, the enlightenment moment must be preceded by moments of vipassanÈ. When a person becomes enlightened, there is a thought process, an enlightenment thought process. There is one moment of Magga consciousness and then two or three moments of Phala consciousness. All together there are three or four enlightenment moments. Before these enlightenment moments, there are four or three moments of vipassanÈ. If there were no moments of vipassanÈ, then the enlightenment moments could not arise. Every enlightenment must be preceded by moments of vipassanÈ.
Nowadays we have to practice vipassanÈ for many days, months, or years, and still we cannot achieve enlightenment. But those who met the Buddha were those who had experience in their past lives, who had pÈramitÈs. So since they had this experience, they were like flowers ready to open up when the sun’s rays come. So when the Buddha taught them, they became enlightened. But even while they were sitting, they had to have some vipassanÈ thoughts, some vipassanÈ moments preceding their enlightenment.
The first sermon is very short. You can say it in five minutes, or maybe at most ten minutes. But in fact the Buddha had to teach the other monks on the following days. What is recorded may be just the essence of what he taught. The actual teaching may have been longer than that. He explained to them They practiced and then maybe they came to him and asked questions about their practice. Then Buddha taught them again. But this is not recorded in the Suttas. So while listening to the Buddha, they have realization come to them. That is because they had pÈramitÈs in past lives, so they were able to achieve enlightenment.
The people nowadays may not have much pÈramitÈs in the past. If they had much pÈramitÈs, they would have gone to NibbÈna with the Buddha during the time of the Buddha. So now we have to practice meditation for days, or months, or years.
Student: Someone said that when the disciples were sitting around listening to the Buddha, we were sitting around the coffee shop drinking coffee.
Teacher: OK. The first factor is Right Understanding. “What, now, is Right Understanding?” There are different kinds of Right Understanding. Today you will get two of them. What is first? Understanding the Four Truths. ‘Right Understanding’ means understanding of the Four Truths. “1. To understand suffering; 2. To understand the origin of suffering; 3. To understand the extinction of suffering; 4. To understand the path that leads to the extinction of suffering. This is called Right Understanding.” This is the highest level of Right Understanding. This kind of Right Understanding comes at the moment of enlightenment. At the moment of enlightenment people are said to understand these Four Truths at the same moment. This is the highest level of SammÈ DiÔÔhi (Right Understanding).
There are other kinds of Right Understanding too. “Again, when the noble disciple understands what is kammically wholesome, and the root of wholesome kamma, what is kammically unwholesome, and the root of unwholesome kamma, the he has Right Understanding.” This is a different kind of Right Understanding. It is not the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, but it is the understanding of kamma and actually its results. It is also important. When we practice meditation, we need to have this understanding, understanding that there is kamma and there is the result of kamma, or understanding of cause and effect. This is another kind of Right Understanding.
In the Commentaries it is stated that there are five kinds of Right Understanding. I want you to note the five kinds of Right Understanding. The first one is understanding of kamma and its results. We must understand and let us say believe that there is kamma and that kamma gives results. So there are the results of kamma and there is kamma. The second one is called the right understanding of jhÈna. That means the wisdom accompanying jhÈnas. So it is JhÈna SammÈ DiÔÔhi. The third one is VipassanÈ Right Understanding. When you practice vipassanÈ, you see the impermanence of things, the unsatisfactory nature of things, the soulless nature of things. That is VipassanÈ Right Understanding. Then the fourth one is Path Right Understanding at the moment of Path. With Path consciousness wisdom arises or understanding arises. That understanding is called Path Right Understanding. Then what follows Path?
Teacher: Fruit, yes. So the fifth one is Fruit Right Understanding. There are five kinds of Right Understanding. Among them the first three belong to mundane states. The last two, Magga and Phala, belong to supramundane states. When we practice vipassanÈ meditation, we have VipassanÈ SammÈ DiÔÔhi, the mundane Right Understanding. So there are these five kinds of Right Understanding. Here we have two - Understanding of the Four Noble Truths and Understanding of Merit and Demerit (kusala and akusala).
“What now is ‘kammically unwholesome (akusala)’? Destruction of living beings is kammically unwholesome. Stealing is kammically unwholesome. Unlawful sexual intercourse is kammically unwholesome.” I think all of you know the five precepts. These are the first three of the five precepts. They belong to bodily action. You commit killing by body. You commit stealing by body. You commit sexual intercourse by body.
“Lying is kammically unwholesome. Tale-bearing is kammically unwholesome. Harsh language is kammically unwholesome. Frivolous talk (useless talk) is kammically unwholesome.” These four belong to verbal actions. You commit these with your mouth. They are lying, tale-bearing, harsh language or abusive language, and frivolous talk or talking nonsense.
“Covetousness is kammically unwholesome. Ill will is kammically unwholesome. Wrong views are kammically unwholesome.” These are mental actions.
You may steal motivated by covetousness. When you steal, it is bodily action. Covetousness is only in the mind. ‘Covetousness’ really means desiring that other people’s property becomes your property. Let us say you see a man with a good car. “How good it would be if that were to become mine.” You might think that. That is what is meant by the word ‘abhijjhÈ’ in PÈÄi. I don’t know what the English word ‘covetousness’ means. Is it just attachment?
Student: It means to desire that which is not yours.
Teacher: All right. Yes. Then it is correct. You see something and you want it for yourself. It would be good if that were to become my property. That is covetousness.
Ill will is the thought “It would be good if he were killed.” It is something like that. It is in your mind. You may be angry with a person, but that is not ill will here. The PÈÄi word ‘vyÈpÈda’ means ‘to wish harm’.
Student: It is not regular anger?
Teacher: Regular anger is not vyÈpÈda here. You may be angry with a person, but that is not yet vyÈpÈda. Through anger you may wish that he were dead or something. And the tenth one is wrong views. “These ten are called ‘Evil Courses of Action (akusala-kammapatha)’.”
“And what are the roots of unwholesome kamma? Greed (lobha) is a root of unwholesome kamma; Hatred (dosa) is a root of unwholesome kamma; Delusion (moha) is a root of unwholesome kamma.” These three are called ‘the roots of unwholesome kamma’. The word ‘root’ is the translation of the PÈÄi word ‘m|la’. That is correct. ‘M|la’ really means ‘to be concomitant with’. Mostly people say that which is rooted in lobha is the lobha m|la. But ‘rooted in’ - I don’t know what it means. I think it means ‘comes from’, something like that.
Let us say you are angry with someone. In order to inflict pain on him, you steal something from him. That stealing is rooted in dosa. We can say that. But here what is meant is ‘to be accompanied by’. A kamma, a mental volition, which is accompanied by greed , or anger, or delusion is unwholesome. It may come from or it may be caused by greed, but what is important is that it must be accompanied by lobha at that time. I think there is a little difference.
Student: So does that mean if I were a starving mother and I stole some fruit to feed my child that my mind would necessarily have covetousness or ill will? It’s because of desire to feed the child.
Teacher: When we try to define kusala and akusala this is a good definition. Akusala is something which is accompanied by lobha, dosa or moha.
Student: The only problem with the term ‘accompanied by’ is that it implies that these things can arise and not be accompanied by these roots. I don’t think that you mean to say that.
Student: It’s not possible to have covetousness that does not arise in dosa. It’s not possible. So it’s not just arising, accompanying with, it’s dependent or concomitant with.
Teacher: Concomitant with, yes.
Student: It makes it sound as though there are two parts of the same phenomenon, but you cannot have any of these ten akusala things arising in the absence of the unwholesome roots, can you?
Teacher: You mean the three roots?
Student: These three roots.
Teacher: Yes. They must arise simultaneously with these roots.
Student: So they cannot arise independently of these roots.
Student: But in the case of stealing for the child she might not be doing that with one of the three roots.
Another Student: I think at the moment of theft - I’ve heard Bhante answer that at the actual moment of taking the fruit it is an unwholesome act. It is an unwholesome moment although it is in a context of doing something wholesome.
Teacher: so how should we say - ‘concomitant with’?
Student: I think that implies that they cannot arise independently of one another.
Teacher: Oh. You know the idea, arising at the same moment with something. Akusala is something that arises with lobha, or dosa, or moha. The PÈÄi word used is ‘m|la’ and ‘m|la’ means root. I don’t want you to misunderstand that whatever comes from greed is akusala. We want to get results and we practice meditation. Desire for results is lobha, but the practice of meditation is kusala.
Student: So there are these three basic motivations?
Teacher: They can be called ‘motivations’. These are the roots of unwholesome kamma. Now in Abhidhamma ‘unwholesome’ is explained as that which is blameworthy (That means that which is blamed by Noble Persons.), and which gives painful results. That is the explanation of akusala (unwholesome kamma). So unwholesome kamma is that which is blameworthy and which gives bad results. Kusala is the opposite of that.
“It is regarded as akusala, i.e. unwholesome or unskillful, as it produces evil and painful results in this or some future existence. The state of will or volition is really that which counts as action (kamma). It may manifest itself as action of the body, or speech; if it does not manifest itself outwardly, it is counted as mental action.”
‘The state of greed (lobha), as also that of hatred (dosa), is always accompanied by ignorance or delusion (moha), this latter being the primary root of all evil. Greed and hatred, however, cannot co-exist in one and the same moment of consciousness.” So greed and ignorance can co-exist. Hatred and ignorance can co-exist. But greed and hatred cannot co-exist.
“What, now, is kammically wholesome (kusala)?” These are the opposites of the ten above. “To abstain from killing is kammically wholesome. To abstain from stealing is kammically wholesome. To abstain from unlawful sexual intercourse is kammically wholesome.” They are bodily action.
“To abstain from lying is kammically wholesome. To abstain from tale-bearing is kammically wholesome. To abstain from harsh language is kammically wholesome. To abstain from frivolous talk is kammically wholesome.” These are the four wholesome verbal actions.
“Absence of covetousness is kammically wholesome. Absence of ill will is kammically wholesome. Right Understanding is kammically wholesome.” These are mental actions.
“these ten are called ‘Good Courses of Action’ (kusala-kamma-patha).” They are the opposites of the ‘Bad Courses of Action’ (akusala-kamma-patha).
Student: What does the term ‘unlawful sexual intercourse’ mean?
Teacher: The PÈÄi term is ‘kÈmesu micchÈcÈrÈ’ which technically means wrong contact in case of sensual pleasures. How is it translated?
Student: Sexual misconduct.
Teacher: I think that is a good translation. ‘KÈmesu’ means the five sensual things - visible objects, audible objects and so on. They are called ‘kÈma’. ‘MicchÈ’ means wrong and ‘ÈcÈra’ means conduct. So it is wrong conduct with regard to sensual things. But here it is not just ordinary sensual things, it is with sexual things.
Not drinking is not mentioned among these ten. Right? The Commentaries explain that drinking is wrong conduct with regard to sensual things, that is with regard to taste. So it is included in the third one. But the third wrong course of action is wrong sexual conduct, so sexual misconduct.
Student: So ‘kÈmesu’ refers to five sensual pleasures, but it means sexual pleasures.
Teacher: That’s right.
Student: Through the five sense doors? Is that what the five is?
Teacher: Five kinds of objects are called ‘kÈma’. The PÈÄi word ‘kÈma’ can mean two things. One is the object. The object is called ‘kÈma’. The desire is also called ‘kÈma’. Here ‘kÈma’ means the five objects of the senses. With regard to them there is wrong conduct and there is right conduct. So here it is wrong conduct.
Student: What about law?
Teacher: If you take the law to be the law of the country, it is completely out of the question because law may permit certain kinds of sexual misconduct according to religious teachings. Sometimes it is important to keep secular law unmixed with religious law or Buddhist law. You may be doing something within the bounds of the law, but you may be doing unethical things. That is what is happening in this modern world, especially in the West. If it is not against the law, then people do things, whether it is fair or not, whether it is ethical or not. With regard to this it is a complicated precept because there are many things to be considered.
These ten courses of akusala (evil courses of action) are explained in the Expositor. I brought a copy of the explanations. Those who want copies may have them or may read the details in the Expositor. It is an Abhidhamma Commentary. The only problem is that there is an inaccurate translation of the third course of action in the Expositor. I have corrected that.
Let us go to wholesome kamma. “And what are the roots of wholesome kamma? Absence of greed is a root of wholesome kamma; absence of hatred is a root of wholesome kamma; absence of delusion is a root of wholesome kamma.” I think it is not just the absence of greed. There is something, the opposite of greed. It is not just the absence of greed. The PÈÄi word is ‘alobha’. Alobha is a separate mental factor. Lobha is one mental fact and alobha is another mental factor. They are opposites of each other. It is not just the absence of greed; but it is non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion.
Student: That’s a very important distinction.
Teacher: Yes. It is not just the absence of greed, but something that is the opposite of greed. So there are non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion.
Understanding the three characteristics - this is also SammÈ DiÔÔthi. “Again, when one understands that corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness are transient (subject to suffering, and without a self), also in that case one possesses Right Understanding.” What kind of Right Understanding is this?
Teacher: Right. So this means VipassanÈ SammÈ DiÔÔhi. ‘VipassanÈ SammÈ DiÔÔhi’ means seeing or understanding impermanence, suffering and soullessness of the aggregates (corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness). Experientially it is seeing the three characteristics of whatever is at the present moment. It may be corporeality. It may be feeling. It may be perception. It may be one of the mental formations. It may be consciousness. Whatever it is, one sees the impermanence and the others.
Student: In the book they put ‘transient’, but they put the other two in brackets as though they are not in the original words.
Teacher: Maybe, yes. When one sees anicca, one sees dukkha and anatta also. That is explained in the Commentaries. With regard to these three characteristics if you see one, you see the other two.
Teacher: When you see the impermanence of things, you also see the suffering nature, the unsatisfactory nature, and soulless nature.
Student: Can you see the suffering nature without seeing the impermanent nature?
Teacher: Without seeing impermanence, I think seeing suffering nature is difficult to see because in the beginning you have to see anicca first. You have to see that things come and go. Things are not permanent. When things are not permanent, they are unsatisfactory. That is a word for dukkha. Suffering is a word for dukkha. When you see that things are impermanent and that things are unsatisfactory, you can also see the soulless nature of things. You can see that you do not have any authority over them. They just come and go. You cannot do anything about them.
Student: They say there are three gates to the Deathless - signless and so on. I always thought the mind took one of the characteristics and used that.
Teacher: Before the moment of enlightenment you may be seeing any one of them. At one moment you may be seeing anicca and at another moment dukkha. At the closest moment to enlightenment if the mind sees anicca, then your entrance to NibbÈna is anicca. If you happen to be contemplating on dukkha, then dukkha is your entrance and so on. Before that you may be doing all three of these contemplations, not only anicca, or only dukkha, or only anatta. That is because these three are interrelated. When you see one, you see the others too.
Student: ‘Ti-lakkhaÓa’ just means three characteristics?
Teacher: That’s right. ‘Ti’ means three. ‘LakkhaÓa’ means marks or characteristics.
Student: So when there is reference to these, it implies vipassanÈ.
Teacher: Oh, yes. You cannot really see impermanence and the others without vipassanÈ. You may think of it. You may conceptualize. You may contemplate, but you do not really see unless you practice vipassanÈ. Whenever we say that we must see the transient nature of things and so on, we imply vipassanÈ.
Student: So if I contemplate that my teeth are going to wear out, that is not vipassanÈ. But it is valuable.
Teacher: Yes, it’s valuable, but that comes from speculation or your thinking. VipassanÈ knowledge is direct seeing. There you are thinking of it. Even that thinking is very helpful. It can help you get the direct knowledge when you practice meditation.
OK. Unprofitable questions - not your questions - I am reading from the book. “Should any one say that he does not wish to lead the holy life under the Blessed One, unless the Blessed One first tells him whether the world is eternal or temporal” and so on. This is from the Malunkyaputta Sutta. Venerable Malunkyaputta was a monk. He always went to the Buddha and asked these questions - whether the world is eternal or not eternal, whether the world is finite or infinite and so on. One time he told the Buddha: “If you do not answer, I will disrobe. I will not be your student anymore.” He said something like that. So the Buddha asked him: “When you became a monk, did I tell you or promise you that I would answer all of your questions? Or did you tell me that I must answer all the questions?” He said “No.” Then the Buddha said: “Why are you asking me these questions now? I did not promise. You did not get a promise.” So these questions are unprofitable. And so the Buddha did not answer these questions. At first he was just dismissed. Later on he came to the Buddha again and asked questions again. At that time the Buddha taught him vipassanÈ. He was able to practice and became enlightened. In his younger life he was troubled by these questions and he could not get the answers.
“Whether the life-principle is identical with the body” - that means there is something like a soul many people believe. The PÈÄi word is ‘jÊva’. ‘JÊva’ means a life or a soul. So the soul and body are the same or not the same.
“The Perfect One continues after death, etc.” For ‘the Perfect One’ the PÈÄi word used is ‘tathÈgata’. ‘TathÈgata’ normally means the Buddha, the Perfect One. All our Commentaries say that ‘tathÈgata’ here means a being, not necessarily a Buddha. It means just a being, a living being. So the question is whether a being continues after death or not.
Student: When they are talking about akusala and the destruction of living beings, they don’t uses the word ‘tathÈgata’ there?
Teacher: No. there they uses the word ‘pÈÓa’. There are many words for being - satta, pÈÓa, bh|ta, sometimes jÊva. So tathÈgata is explained in the Commentaries to mean a being, not necessarily the Buddha.
“Such a one would die before the Perfect One could tell him all this.” If you ask me all these questions, you will die before you get all the answers. “It is as if a man were pierced by a poisoned arrow and his friends, companions or near relations should send for a surgeon; but that man should say: ‘I will not have this arrow pulled out, until I know, who the man is that has wounded me: whether he is a noble man, a priest, a tradesman, or a servant’; or: ‘whether he is tall, or short, or of medium height’;” or whether the arrow was made of what kind of wood, or whether the feather on the arrow was made from a certain bird and so on. “Truly, such a man would die ere he could adequately learn all this.”
“Therefore, the man who seeks his own welfare, should pull out this arrow - this arrow of lamentation, pain, and sorrow.”
The next one I like very much. “For, whether the theory exists, or whether it does not exist, that the world is eternal, or temporal, or finite or infinite - yet certainly, there exists birth, there exists decay, there exists death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the extinction of which, attainable even in this present life, I make known to you.” Whether we are Buddhists or Christians, we have the same problems. We have greed, hatred and delusion. We have old age, disease, death and all these. So we should do something. OK. Let’s stop here. Next time we will study the five fetters and so on.
SÈdhu! SÈdhu! SÈdhu!