Word of the Buddha
We are on page 34. We continue our study of Right Understanding, the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. There are different kinds of Right Understanding. I told you about how many? Five kinds of Right Understanding. We will continue with Right Understanding.
Today we have wise considerations. “The learned and noble disciple, however, who has regard for the holy men, knows the teaching of holy men, is well trained in the noble doctrine; he understands what is worthy of consideration, and what is unworthy. And knowing this, he considers the worthy, and not the unworthy. What suffering is, he wisely considers; what the origin of suffering is, he wisely considers; what the extinction of suffering is, he wisely considers; what the path is that leads to the extinction of suffering, he wisely considers.” So there are two kinds of consideration, wise and unwise. Unwise consideration is taking things as permanent, happiness, and self or soul. Wise consideration here is what? Understanding the Four Noble Truths. “What suffering is, he wisely considers; what the origin of suffering is, he wisely considers; what the extinction of suffering is, he wisely considers; what the path is that leads to the extinction of suffering, he wisely considers.”
In this paragraph in the beginning it says: “The learned and noble disciple, however, who has regard for the holy men.” In the original it says: “The learned and noble disciple who sees the holy men.” ‘Seeing’ here means seeing with the mental eye, not just seeing with physical eyes. A person may see even the Buddha with physical eyes, but if he does not understand thing anything about the Buddha, that will not help him. ‘Who has regard for the holy men’ means who sees the holy men. “Knows the teaching of holy men, is well trained in the noble doctrine” - so here ‘holy men’ means Noble Ones or Ariya in PÈÄi.
Next we have the SotÈpanna or ‘Stream-Enterer’. “And by thus considering, three fetters vanish, namely: Self-illusion, Scepticism, and Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual.” Here a person becomes a SotÈpanna very fast. In order to become a SotÈpanna a person has to practice vipassanÈ meditation and then has to go through the different stages of vipassanÈ. When at the moment of enlightenment, he sees the Four Noble Truths directly and realizes NibbÈna, three fetters vanish. That means the Path consciousness eradicates these three fetters. They are self-illusion, scepticism, and attachment to mere rule and ritual.
“But those disciples, in whom these three fetters have vanished, they all have ‘entered the Stream’ (SotÈpanna).” That is the meaning of SotÈpanna. There are two words, ‘sota’ and ‘Èpanna’. ‘Œpanna’ means reached or having reached. ‘Sota’ means stream, the stream of Dhamma. It is one who has reached the stream, who has got into the stream, so who has entered the stream.
Oh, I’m sorry. I skipped one page, page 32. OK. Let’s go back to the five fetters. Right? Yes. “Suppose for instance that there is an unlearned worldling, void of regard for the holy men (So he is the opposite of the one described on page 34.), untrained in the noble doctrine. And his heart is possessed and overcome by Self-illusion, by Skepticism, by Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual, by Sensual Lust, and by Ill Will; and how to free himself from these things, he does not in reality know.” A person who is an unlearned worldling or a person who is not yet enlightened is overcome or is possessed in fact by all ten fetters, not only these five.
The first one is Self-illusion. SakkÈya diÔÔhi may reveal itself as ‘eternalism’ (bhava or sassata diÔÔhi). ‘SakkÈya diÔÔhi’ (self-illusion) means wrong view with regard to the body. Here kÈya diÔÔhi, sa-kÈya-diÔÔhi - ‘sa’ just means existing, kÈya means body, and ‘diÔÔhi’ means wrong view. Actually it is taking the five aggregates as self or attÈ. “ ‘Eternalism’: bhava or sassata-diÔÔhi, lit. ‘Eternity-Belief’, i.e. the belief that one’s Ego, Self, or Soul exists independently of the material body, and continues even after the dissolution of the latter (the material body).” So this belief or view takes it that there is an ego, a soul, or self believed by many people to be eternal. That soul exists independently of the material body. They believe that there is a soul in our body or living in our body. They believe that it is a soul that experiences or that directs us to do difficult activities. “And continues even after the dissolution of the latter” - they believe that this soul continues after this body is dissolved. That means after death. So when this person dies, that Œtman moves to another body, like when we change clothes. When the clothes are old or dirty, we change clothes. In the same way when our body becomes old and fragile, this Œtman leaves it and goes to another body. That is what people of other faiths during the time of the Buddha believed. The Buddha said this is not correct. This is one aspect of sakkÈya diÔÔhi.
The second one is annihilation (vibhava or uccheda diÔÔhi). In fact we have found these two wrong views where? In the Second Noble Truth, in the three kinds of craving. Right? There it was craving. Here it is wrong view. That is the difference. Craving which accompanies bhava diÔÔhi or sakkÈya diÔÔhi is called ‘bhava taÓhÈ’. The next one is vibhava taÓhÈ (annihilation). Another name for it is uccheda diÔÔhi. ‘Uccheda’ means cut. That means the soul of a person is cut off or disappears at death and never arises again. Uccheda diÔÔhi is the annihilationist view. “It is the materialistic belief that this present life constitutes the Ego.” So they believe in ego too. They believe in Œtman too, but they take it that the Œtman disappears at the end of this life. There is no more rebirth; there is nothing whatsoever. This view was taken by the chavakas during the time of the Buddha or maybe a little later. They were materialists who did not believe in rebirth, who did not believe in doing good and so on. They said: “Why talk about dukkha? When you are alive, enjoy it. Even if your father or mother is an obstacle to your joy, you may kill them.” They said something like that. There is no Œtman after death. When the body dies, then the Œtman dies and that is the end of it. There is no rebirth or whatever.
Student: What is interesting, Bhante, is that both of those we translate as self-illusion. ‘Self’ in my mind refers to something psychological primarily. Both of these words in PÈÄi are making very strong reference to r|pa, to the relation of self to r|pa - either that it doesn’t disappear or that it does disappear. It’s talking about something a little different than a psychological self. It’s talking about the whole entity.
Teacher: Yes. “And that it is annihilated at the death of the material body.” These are the two views which existed at the time of the Buddha and continued to exist after his death. The first one is explained here, sakkÈya diÔÔhi. What about the others? On page 35 we will see something there.
Now we have unwise considerations. “Not knowing what is worthy of consideration, and what is unworthy of consideration, he considers the unworthy, and not the worthy.”
“And unwisely he considers thus: ‘Have I been in the past? Or, have I not been in the past? What have I been in the past? How have I been in the past? From what state into what state did I change in the past?” With regard to the past how many views are there? Have I been in the past, have I not been in the past - in fact, this is what people who doubt, who still have doubt, always think - have I been in the past or have I not been in the past. Then, “What have I been in the past?” That means did I belong to the warrior caste, or to the priest caste and so on; or was I a householder in the past life, was I a monk in my past life; was I a deity, was I a human being and so on. It is thinking in that way and not coming to any conclusion.
“How have I been in the past?” That means of what appearance was I in the past. Was I tall, short; was I black or white; was I too small or too big - such things are referred to here as how have I been in the past.
“From what state into what state did I change in the past?” That means for example maybe in one of my lives I belonged to the warrior caste and then in the next life I may have belonged to the priest caste or ordinary caste and so on. Thinking in that way here is characterized by the Buddha as unwise consideration. These are unwise considerations because just by thinking we cannot come to any conclusion.
With regard to the future also - “Shall I be in the future? Or shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future?” It is the same thing. “How shall I be in the future? From what state into what state shall I change in the future - and the present also fills him with doubt.” With regard to the present it is the same. “ Am I? Or, am I not?” Do I exist or do I not exist; it is something like that. “What am I? How am I?” Am I tall or am I short, something like that. “This being, whence has it come? Whither will it go?” Where, like that. “This being, whence has it come? Whither will it go?” Where do I come from and where will I go? For these questions he does not get any answer. There is just doubting. He just asks himself these questions and cannot come to any conclusion. This is unwise consideration because thinking in that way does not lead to any spiritual progress.
Then there are the six views about Œtman.
Student: ‘SakkÈya diÔÔhi’ means body existing view?
Student: What does ‘sassata’ mean?
Teacher: ‘Sassata’ means eternal. “And with such unwise considerations, he adopts one or other of the six views, and it becomes his conviction and firm belief: ‘I have a Self’, or: ‘I have no Self’, or: ‘With the Self I perceive the Self’, or: ‘With the Self I perceive that which is no Self’. Or, he adopts the following view: ‘This my Self, which can think and feel, and which, now here, now there, experiences the fruit of good and evil deeds: this my Self is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and will thus eternally remain the same’.”
During the time of the Buddha I think many people were familiar with the five aggregates. So some people took the feeling aggregate to be the self. Some people thought the perception aggregate to be self. So here it says: “With the Self I perceive the Self.” That means taking perception as self and the others also as self. So it is Œtman perceiving other Œtman, something like that. “With the Self I perceive the Self.”
“With the Self I perceive that which is no Self.” Here he takes perception as self and others as no self and so on. So there are these different views. “With the Self I perceive that which is no Self.”
“Or he adopts the following view: ‘This my Self, which can think and feel, and which, now here, now there, experiences the fruit of good and evil deeds: this my Self is permanent.” So he takes the self as permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change and that it will eternally remain the same. This is the belief that many people held during the time of the Buddha.
Then we have the Buddha’s explanation. “If there really existed the Self, there would also exist something which belonged to the Self. As, however, in truth and reality neither the Self, nor anything belonging to the Self, can be found, is it not therefore really an utter fools’ doctrine to say: ‘This is the world, this am I; after death I shall be permanent, persisting, and eternal’?” This passage is quoted by Dr. Walpola Rahula in his book, What the Buddha Taught. With these words he said that the Buddha denied Œtman categorically. You know there are many people who have wanted to take Œtman into Buddhism and have wanted to say that Buddha did not deny Œtman. So Dr. Walpola Rahula points out this passage. Here the Buddha said that if there really existed a self, there would exist something which belongs to self. “In truth and reality neither the Self, nor anything belonging to the Self, can be found, is it not therefore really an utter fools’ doctrine to say: ‘This is the world, this is I; after death I shall be permanent, persisting and eternal’.”
“These are called mere views, a thicket of views, a puppet-show of views, a toil of views, a snare of views; and ensnared in the fetter of views the ignorant worldling will not be freed from rebirth, from decay, and from death, from sorrow, pain, grief and despair; he will not be freed, I say from suffering.” So long as a person has this view he is with sakkÈya diÔÔhi (self-delusion). So long as he cannot get rid of sakkÈya diÔÔhi along with other fetters, he will not become a SotÈpanna or he will not become a Noble Person. He will not be freed from suffering.
Teacher: Formerly his belief was that there is a self. Since there is nothing which we can call ‘self’, there is no saying whether there is a self or there is no self. But, in fact, the Buddha denied the existence of Œtman. Buddha denies the existence of Œtman. Right? So a person cannot say that I have a self or that I do not have a self. If we say that I do not have a self, it presupposes that there is a self, but I do not have that self. According to the teachings of TheravÈda and also of MahÈyÈna, the Buddha denied Œtman all together.
Student: So the second view is not that there is no self, but that there is Œtman, but it is not me?
Teacher: It is not mine. With regard to wise consideration the Buddha said: “What suffering is, he wisely considers” and so on. That means he correctly understands the Four Noble Truths. When a person correctly sees or understands the Four Noble Truths through self-realization or experience, then one becomes a SotÈpanna ( a Stream-Enterer or Stream-Winner). A SotÈpanna is a person who has eradicated three of the ten fetters and who has seen NibbÈna directly in his mind. Such a person is called a ‘SotÈpanna’, one who has got into the stream. When you are in the stream, you are sure to reach the ocean. When you are in the stream of a river, you are sure to reach the ocean. Once a person has entered into the stream of Dhamma or got into the stream of Dhamma, he is sure to reach NibbÈna. there are only seven more rebirths for him.
Student: Bhante, could you say something about these fetters?
Teacher: We will come to them later on.
“More than any earthly power,
More than all the joys of heaven,
More than rule o’er all the world,
Is the Entrance to the Stream.”
This is from the Dhammapada. Buddha values Entrance to the Stream or SotÈpatti more than earthly power, more than all the joys of heaven, and more than rulership over all the world.
This verse was uttered by the Buddha in connection with a son of AnÈtapiÓÉika. AnÈtapiÓÉika was a millionaire during the time of the Buddha. He built the famous Jetavana Monastery. Buddha lived at Jetavana Monastery for 20 years. He built the Jetavana Monastery and offered it to the Buddha. Also he supported the Buddha with the requisites. In the books it is said that he went to the monastery daily taking with him some offerings, some for the young novices and so on. He was a great benefactor of the Buddha. He often invited the Buddha and monks to his house to accept food. It is said that he had a son. AnÈtapiÓÉika was a SotÈpanna. His son was not interested in the Buddha’s teachings. He was young and so he just enjoyed himself. AnÈtapiÓÉika wanted to bring his son to the Dhamma. So he said to his son: “If you go to the monastery, I will give you (Let us say) a thousand dollars.” The son wanted to get the money. So he went to the monastery, but he did not go to the Buddha. He just slept at a certain place in the monastery. Then in the morning he went back. Before anything was given to him to eat, he said: “Give me my money.” Only when he got the money would he eat. This goes on. Then AnÈtapiÓÉika said: “Go to the Buddha and just listen to one word from him and then come back and I will give you one thousand.” So the son went. The Buddha was talking and he listened to the Buddha. He listened, and listened, and listened, and got into the Dhamma, just listening. During the talk he paid attention to the words of the Buddha. So he was able to develop vipassanÈ and reach SotÈpanna. He became a SotÈpanna. At first he was not willing to hear the Buddha, but he wanted the money. So he listened to the Buddha and the Buddha taught not only him but all people. So he listened to the Buddha and got interested in his Dhamma. Little by little, during the talk, he got deeper and deeper in the Dhamma. He was able to become a SotÈpanna. So in the morning he went back to the monastery. On that day AnÈtapiÓÉika had invited the Buddha and the monks to his house. The son’s name was KÈla. So KÈla went with the Buddha and his disciples back to his house. He was a SotÈpanna then. So he thought it would be good if his father did not give him the money. He was ashamed then to accept money. He was sitting at one side and his father came and said: “It’s your money. Take it.” The son was embarrassed. At that time the Buddha told AnÈtapiÓÉika what had happened and uttered this verse. Buddha said that now that he has become a SotÈpanna, even the earthly of power, or the joys of celestial beings, or even becoming a universal monarch, is not of value to him. Entrance into the Stream or being a SotÈpanna is better than being a celestial being or being a universal monarch. Buddha taught that. It is taken from the Dhammapada and the Commentary. So it is important for parents to make their sons and daughters acquainted with Dhamma in some way. He was enticed by money. That’s why he went to the monastery. There are many stories in the Dhammapada. Some are interesting and there is some kind of humor.
I think I told the story of two pickpockets at the retreat. Two pickpockets went to where the Buddha was preaching. Their intention was to pick pockets. One paid attention to the teachings, to the Buddha. He became a SotÈpanna. The other was able to pick pockets. So when they went back, the one who had picked pockets said: “You are too wise. So you didn’t get anything to buy your food with.” The other did not say anything to him. Later he went to the Buddha and told him about this. The Buddha said: “A fool who thinks that he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man; the fool who thinks that he is wise is called a fool indeed.” The Dhammapada is very good to read.
Now we have the Ten Fetters (saÑyojana). Whenever you read about the Noble Ones or enlightenment, you will come across mention of these fetters. They are important to understand. “There are ten ‘Fetters’ - saÑyojana - by which beings are bound to the wheel of existence.” ‘SaÑyojana’ means to tie or to bind things or people. So here the ten fetters are like rope. They bind beings to the wheel of existence or to the round of rebirth. So long as beings cannot eradicate these fetters they will be reborn again and again in this saÑsÈra.
“They are: 1. Self-Illusion (sakkÈya diÔÔhi) 2. Skepticism (vicikicchÈ).” You met an instance of vicikicchÈ on page 33. “Have I been in the past; have I not been in the past” and so on. What is skepticism? That means doubt. Doubt about what? It is explained in Abhidhamma as doubt about the Buddha, doubt about the Dhamma, doubt about the Sa~gha, doubt about the training, doubt about past aggregates, doubt about future aggregates, doubt about both past and future aggregates, doubt about Dependent Origination.
Student: Why is there the distinction between past aggregates, future aggregates, and past and future aggregates? That I don’t understand.
Teacher: Maybe some are only doubtful about the past or only about the future.
Student: What is there to doubt about the past aggregates? Previous Rebirth?
Teacher: Yes. Like - “Have I been in the past? Will I be in the future?” So - “Have I been in the past? Have I not been in the past?” That is doubt about past aggregates. “Will I be in the future? Will I not be in the future?” That is doubt about future aggregates. Then if he has doubts about past and future, then he doubts both. Then there are doubts about the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sa~gha. And there is doubt about training. ‘Training’ means the three trainings - sÊla, samÈdhi and paÒÒÈ. So it can be doubt about the practice. Just by paying attention to the object at the present moment, can we really see the true nature of things? That is doubt. Even during the practice of meditation this kind of doubt can come to us again and again.
“3. Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual (sÊlabbata parÈmÈsa)” It is important. According to the explanations given in the Abhidhamma and the Commentaries, it is a little different from what people know about this fetter nowadays. It says here it is attachment to mere rules and rituals or rites and rituals. SÊlabbata is the PÈÄi word. It comes from ‘sÊla’ and ‘vata’. Here sÊla and vata are more or less the same. In the Sub-Commentaries their difference is explained, but actually they are more or less the same. Taking up the behavior of cows or dogs is called ‘sÊlabbata’ here. In the time of the Buddha some people believed if they acted like dogs, they would get free from mental defilements. If you eat like a dog, sleep like a dog, live like a dog, then you will be able to eradicate craving, attachment and defilements. I would like you to read a Sutta in the Majjhima NikÈya about such a person. This person believed in taking after the behavior of dogs. He acted like a dog. He slept on a heap of ashes. He ate from the ground like a dog. Another ascetic was a believer in the behavior of cows. He lived like cows do. He ate like cows and so on. They are called ‘sÊlabbata’ here.
‘SÊlabbata parÈmÈsa’ means that by these practices one can get purification of mind. If you believe that way, then you have this fetter. If you believe that behavior like a dog or like cattle can lead you to emancipation, to enlightenment, then you have this fetter.
Student: Is it only in relation to those two things? I always thought that it meant if you thought just doing devotion to a statue that you could become free in that way.
Teacher: There are other animals mentioned in one of the books, so their behavior as well. MahÈsi SayÈdaw explained that even if you take it that keeping precepts alone can lead you to enlightenment, then you have this kind of fetter. If we take the rites and rituals as the only means to get enlightenment, then it becomes a fetter. Enlightenment can only be attained through the practice of meditation. Just by dÈna or just by sÊla you cannot get to the stage of enlightenment. You have to do meditation. So if you take it that just by sÊla you can become enlightened or even just by jhÈna you can become enlightened, then this is a fetter.
Student: SÊla is morality?
Teacher: Not necessarily. SÊla has two meanings. One is just a habit. ‘SÊla’ means habit. The other meaning of sÊla is morality.
That is attachment to rites and rituals. It is important. Sometimes I bow down before the Buddha. Right? You may have seen me. That is paying respect. Bowing to the Buddha is paying respect to him. I am grateful to him for teaching the Dhamma to all people including us. I don’t take it to be the only way to get enlightenment. At the retreat one man asked why I bowed down. So I told him that way. If I don’t practice meditation and just bow down to get enlightenment, then I am bound by this fetter.
“4. Sensual Lust (kÈmarÈga)” - that is lust for, or craving for, or attachment to sense objects. It is attachment to physical things, to audible things and so on. They are called ‘sensual lust’ here.
Student: Does taÓhÈ mean the same thing?
Teacher: Yes. They are the same. TaÓhÈ and rÈga are synonyms. Their word meaning is different, but they mean the same thing. The literal meaning of taÓhÈ is thirst. RÈga is to be attached to, or to stain, or to dye. We use dye for robes. That is called ‘rÈga’. So it can mean stain or dye. ‘TaÓhÈ’ means thirst. But they mean the same thing, lobha. That is why it is very important to understand and know these different words used by the Buddha. They mean the same thing, but they have a little distinction. They are something like synonyms in English. Although they generally mean the same thing, they may have different connotations or subtle differences.
“5. Ill Will (vyÈpÈda)” - vyÈpÈda is dosa. “6. Craving for Fine Material Existence (r|pa rÈga)” - that means craving for Brahma world. And it is also craving for jhÈna. Attachment to jhÈna is the same thing. “7. Craving for Immaterial Existence (ar|pa rÈga)” - it is the same thing. It is craving for the world of the immaterial Brahamas or formless Brahmas. #8 is conceit (mÈna), thinking much of oneself. It is pride.
Student: How does that exist if self-delusion has been eradicated?
Teacher: Even when self-delusion is eradicated there is a very subtle mÈna remaining. It is said that even the Non-Returners can have this kind of mÈna.
Student: Is it pride in being a Non-Returner?
Teacher: It may be very subtle. They cannot eradicate all together. But they have very subtle conceit. The SotÈpanna eradicates three fetters, but with regard to the other fetters they eradicate something also. They make the other fetters less strong. A SotÈpanna may still have lobha. He may still have dosa. The dosa of a SotÈpanna is very different from the dosa of ordinary people. His lobha and dosa are not strong enough to let him be reborn in the woeful states. It is said that a SotÈpanna will not be reborn in the four apÈyas. Right? A SotÈpanna may be reborn as a human being or as a celestial being but not as a hell being, an animal and so on. That is because he eradicates the three fetters and also destroys the potential of the other fetters to send him to the woeful states. That is why a SotÈpanna will not be reborn in hell or as an animal.
Student: Can a SotÈpanna fall back?
Teacher: No. In TheravÈda teaching the Noble Persons will not and cannot fall back. Let us say a SotÈpanna dies here. He may be reborn as a human being. When he is reborn until he reaches a certain age, he may not know that he is a SotÈpanna. Even then he will not kill insects. We will come to that later. A SotÈpanna is not reborn in the woeful states because he will not do any wrong that will send him to the woeful states. It is not that he does them and that he is immune. No. It is very important because you may be easily deceived into believing that after you become a SotÈpanna you can do anything.
“9. Restlessness (uddhacca)” - this comes to us very often when we practice meditation. Right? ‘Ud’ means up and ‘dhacca’ means trembling. So ‘uddhacca’ means trembling above. That means your mind is not stuck to the object, not with the object, but a little away from the object. Your mind is not quite squarely on the object. That is uddhacca.
Teacher: Wavering, yes.
Student: Restlessness is when you drink coffee.
Teacher: No. This is in your mind. This restlessness is not of the body.
Student: Bhante, may I go back to mÈna? In English conceit implies reference to another person. Well not always. Usually it is I have done something better than someone else. Is that mÈna?
Teacher: Yes. I am better than that man. Say, I was born in a rich family and he was not. It is like that.
Student: Can you explain the difference between self-illusion and ignorance?
Teacher: Self-illusion and wrong view are the same. Self-illusion is one of the wrong views. Ignorance is not knowing. And here ‘ignorance’ means ignorance of the Four Noble Truths, ignorance of impermanence and others of things. Ignorance is very difficult to be aware of. It is not like lobha and dosa. Lobha is obvious. When we have lobha, we know that we have lobha. When we are angry, we know that we are angry. They are easy to see. But moha is always with us. So it is not easy to see. This moha is very tenacious. It will cling to a person until he becomes an Arahant. Only an Arahant can eradicate ignorance (avijjÈ).
Student: So does ignorance include all the other fetters?
Teacher: No. Each fetter is different and clearly defined. The first one is wrong view. It is one of the mental factors. The second one, skepticism, is another mental factor. The third fetter is wrong view again. The fourth fetter is lobha. The fifth fetter is dosa. The sixth fetter is lobha again. And the seventh fetter is lobha again. The eighth fetter is mÈna which is a separate mental factor. The ninth fetter is a separate mental factor. The ten fetter is a separate mental factor, moha.
Student: The first one is moha?
Teacher: No. It is diÔÔhi. Next we have the Noble Ones (Ariya Puggala). “One who is freed from the first three Fetters is called a ‘Stream Enterer’ (in PÈÄi: SotÈpanna) i.e. one who has entered the stream leading to NibbÈna. He has unshakable faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sa~gha, and is incapable of breaking the five Moral Precepts.” That is very important. If a person becomes a SotÈpanna, he is incapable of breaking any one of the five moral precepts. He will never break any of the five moral precepts. They are not killing, not stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, and no intoxicants.
There were people who practiced meditation and thought that they had become SotÈpannas. I have met such people. They asked me if they were SotÈpannas. I said that I did not know. It is your enlightenment. So you alone know. They said that they did not know, but they thought that they had become SotÈpannas. I said that you can judge for yourself from your sÊla. It is said in the books that a SotÈpanna has unshakable faith in the Buddha and so on, and that he is incapable of breaking any of the five precepts. So if you really avoid breaking the precepts, then you may be a SotÈpanna.
Lately I met a man in Los Angeles. He is Burmese. He practiced meditation for some time and he thought that he was a SotÈpanna. Then a friend of his came to the monastery two weeks ago. She said that she saw him at a party drinking.
A SotÈpanna will not be reborn in lower states because he does not do any wrongdoing, any breaking of the rules which will send him to these states. It is not that he is immune to the effects of wrongdoing. So after you become a SotÈpanna, you cannot say that I have become a SotÈpanna; I can do anything. You cannot say that you can drink and do other things.
That is very important. That is because there may be some teachers that say that it’s OK for me because I am enlightened. I may do drugs or I may drink some liquor. That’s all right for me because I am a teacher. No! If he is really a SotÈpanna, he will not even touch. In our books it is said that if you mix liquor with milk and have a SotÈpanna drink, only milk will enter his mouth, not the liquor. I don’t know how true it is, but it is said that way.
Student: Bhante, in keeping the precepts do SotÈpannas have any inclination to break the rules or have they just reached a point of consciousness where it does not occur to them?
Teacher: It would not occur to them. No.
Student: They have meditated to a certain level of consciousness where this does not occur.
Teacher: That’s right. There are three mental factors which are called ‘abstinences’. There are three kinds of abstinence - abstention from bodily misconduct, abstention from verbal misconduct, and abstention from wrong livelihood. When a person becomes an Ariya (a Noble Person), beginning with a SotÈpanna, then he fulfills these three mental factors to perfection. Desire or inclination to break these rules is totally cut off with enlightenment, with the gaining of enlightenment. Such thoughts would not come to them.
Student: So they have a protection by the level of consciousness that they have reached.
Teacher: That’s right.
Student: But SotÈpannas still have lobha?
Teacher: Oh, yes. They still have lobha, but they would not steal. They would not lie. They still have lobha. If you steal with lobha, that wrongdoing can send you to the lower worlds. Because they do not break these rules they will not be reborn there.
“He is incapable of breaking the five Moral Precepts. He will be reborn seven times, at the utmost.” If the SotÈpanna does not reach higher levels of enlightenment, then he will be reborn seven times. In the seventh rebirth he will surely become an Arahant.
Student: Bhante, is there any controversy about the meaning of seven times? It was quoted to me that Taungpulu SayÈdaw referred to that as being reborn seven times in the human realm. In fact there may be many, many, many more rebirths in other realms higher than the human realm. So he interpreted it as seven rebirths in the human realm and other people say that it is just seven rebirths on the wheel.
Teacher: It is taken to mean any rebirth, not just human rebirth.
Student: Seven more rebirths and lights out.
Teacher: Yes. There is one thing mentioned in the Commentary. It is called ‘Bon-zin-san’. That mean a SotÈpanna will be reborn in every existence until he reaches the highest existence and becomes an Arahant. We are not sure whether that means a SotÈpanna will have more than seven rebirths or just seven rebirths going from existence to another. They are called ‘those who delight in the round of rebirth’. They don’t want to get out of this round of rebirth sooner. So they live the whole duration of seven rebirths.
Student: This is different than the Bodhisatta.
Teacher: Right. A Bodhisatta will not become a SotÈpanna because if he becomes a SotÈpanna, after seven rebirths he will become an Arahant and not a Buddha. In TheravÈda Buddhism Bodhisattas are not enlightened. They are puthujjanas, like you and me.
Student: The SotÈpanna is supposed to be reborn at most seven times, but there are more than seven realms.
Teacher: That’s right. That’s why I said that I do not know if going from one realm to another is just seven or more than seven. But if it is more than seven, it will run counter to the explanations given in the Abhidhamma. Whenever a SotÈpanna is explained, then it says ‘sattakatuparamo’. That means at most he will be reborn seven times. He may be reborn only once or twice. He will not be reborn more than seven times.
Student: One can reach Arahantship from the Ar|pa World? One need not be in the human world to become an Arahant?
Teacher: It depends upon your state when you are reborn in the Ar|pa World. If you are reborn in the Ar|pa World as a puthujjana, you will not become an Ariya, even a SotÈpanna there.
Student: So if you are reborn in the formless world as a worldling - how does that happen? I thought if you were born in the Ar|pa World, you don’t have a form. How can you be a worldling in the Ar|pa World?
Teacher: If you get the ar|pÈvacara jhÈnas as a worldling, you will be reborn there. Why is he unable to become a SotÈpanna in the Ar|pa World? For other persons, except Buddhas, to become enlightened they need the instructions from others. In PÈÄi it is called ‘para ghosa’ (voice from others). Buddhas are self-made. They do not need teachers. All other beings need the voice from another person, instructions. Only when they get instructions can they become SotÈpannas and so on. If you are reborn in the Ar|pa World, you have no ear. You have no eye. You have no ears to hear with. You have no eyes to see with and so on. However much the Buddha might go to their world and talk or teach them, they cannot take any advantage of the Buddha’s teachings. That is why the Ar|pÈvacara World is included with those that are unsuitable for spiritual development. In Burmese we call them realms to be forsaken, realms to be avoided. If you are reborn in the Ar|pa World, you cannot become enlightened. If you are reborn in the four woeful states, you cannot become enlightened.
Student: Where does the idea of SotÈpanna first arise? Is it in the Abhidhamma?
Teacher: In the Suttas as well as in Abhidhamma. Now with regard to Abhidhamma, let me tell you, Western people want to isolate Abhidhamma from Suttas. Many people say: “We don’t want Abhidhamma. We just want to read or understand Suttas.” But that is impossible because what is taught in Abhidhamma is also taught in Suttas. You find five aggregates, twelve bases or elements in Suttas and they are treated in Abhidhamma too. So Abhidhamma cannot be separated from Suttas. The Abhidhamma treats more fully and Suttas do no treat in that way. That is the difference.
When the Buddha taught the five aggregates in the Suttas, he would just say there are five aggregates and they are corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. But in Abhidhamma the Buddha would talk about five aggregates analyzing them into the other dhammas and he would treat them in detail. In the SaÑyutta NikÈya the five aggregates are taught and the teaching only occupies one page. In the Vibhanga, the Abhidhamma, it occupies about 70 pages. What is different is just the treatment. The same things are taught in Abhidhamma and in the Suttas.
Student: The Suttas are attributed to the Buddha and the Abhidhamma was written by his disciples.
Teacher: The orthodox view is that Abhidhamma was also taught by the Buddha, not added by his disciples later. There are scholars, especially Western scholars, who thought that the Abhidhamma was added later by his disciples. But if you read Abhidhamma, you will see that it simply could not be the work of people other than the Buddha. It is so systematic and so consistent. The author of The Path of Deliverance said that the Abhidhamma may be later than the Suttas, but it accords with the Suttas totally. There is no discrepancy between the Suttas and Abhidhamma.
You know now people are trying to say this Sutta or this statement is later than this statement or older than this statement and so on. Rhys Davids tried to do that. They said this portion of the Sutta is older and this is later. It is all based on conjecture. Nobody knows actually. Nobody even knows if they are the words of the Buddha. ‘Nobody’ means anybody that is living now. We were not living when the Buddha was teaching. There were no tape recorders. Nobody knows actually. But there is tradition. So when we go backward along time in tradition, then we arrive at the Buddha. So if I accept you, then I accept your parents, and your parents’ parents and so on and on back to the first man of that clan. In the same way we take the Buddha’s words to be a whole. So we do not say these words are later than these. There are some Suttas which you can say are definitely later than another Sutta. They are clearly stated in the Suttas. It may say this took place after the death of the Buddha. There are a very few of some such Suttas. Otherwise nobody knows. It is just by conjecture that they say this is older than this; this must be later than this. Sometimes they base their opinion on the use of words. Here we find arcane words, so it must be older. One thing I think that they did not take into account is that when written inverse, since you have to follow the meter. You may have to use even arcane words to fit the meter. That’s why there are peculiar forms or old forms in the verses or in the gÈthÈs. We cannot say simply because we find an older word in a certain Sutta that this Sutta is older than another Sutta. It is impossible.
I will give you an example. There was an author in Myanmar. He lived about 150 years ago or a bit more. When we read his books, we found many arcane Burmese words. He was fond of these words and he used these words. Fortunately we know his dates. If we did not know these dates, we would have said that his books were very ancient because the words in these books are very ancient words. It is not true.
Student: But the style was more modern.
Teacher: What he wrote were Nissayas, the word by word translations of PÈÄi. So we cannot have style there. So there is one PÈÄi word and one Burmese word, one PÈÄi word, one Burmese word. It is like that.
Student: Is it in three scripts - Burmese, Sanskrit -
Teacher: No. We use Burmese letters for both PÈÄi and Burmese. For example, ekaÑ samayaÑ (at one time) Buddho (the Buddha) viharati (lives) SÈvatthiyaÑ (in SÈvatthi). They are very exact. Because we have such very reliable Nissayas or translations our understanding of PÈÄi is very precise. The monks’ understanding of PÈÄi language is very precise. Every word must have a meaning and we have to understand all of them. So I think we should accept now the TipiÔaka as the words of the Buddha. We should study it and act accordingly rather than trying to find out which is older, which is later. Now there are people who are trying to find original Buddhism. I don’t know how they would find that. They said that monks put many things in the Suttas or in the mouth of the Buddha. Then how are they to extricate the real, pure words of the Buddha?
Student: But Bhante, the Sanskrit scholars say that PÈÄi was not the language of the Buddha. They say that he spoke MÈgadhÊ or some dialect of MÈgadha. They say that the Sanskrit texts that they have preserved in the Northern Indian schools are just as likely to be authentic transmissions as the PÈÄi. What is the TheravÈda tradition response to these scholars?
Teacher: We cannot underestimate the authenticity of the oral tradition. That is because this oral tradition is carried down not by one monk, not by ten monks, not by one hundred monks. It was carried down by thousands and thousands of monks. Normally people would think that it would be very easy to add something to the Suttas or to take something out of the Suttas because it is an oral tradition. But I think it is very difficult to do that. You are not alone. If you make some additions or omissions in the Suttas that you have learned by heart, then the next time you meet with other monks, then you will be found out.
Student: There were still many different schools of legitimate interpretation. The Sanskrit scholars are saying why should we think that the tradition that has been thankfully preserved in the TheravÈda school, that that line of interpretation is more legitimate than others which no longer exist. It is just a fluke of history, who survived and who didn’t.
Teacher: You are saying ‘maybe, maybe’. These 18 schools developed later according to our tradition. They developed 100 years after the death of the Buddha. So according to our tradition until about 100 years after the death of the Buddha, there were no serious differences between monks who have carried down the oral tradition to their generation. About 100 years after the death of the Buddha there arose some monks who had different interpretations of the Vinaya. At that time there was no dispute about Dhamma. The dispute was about Vinaya. For example we are not to eat after twelve noon. Then some said you could eat even after noon until the shadow grows four fingers breadths. Until the shadow has passed four finger breadths you can eat. There are ten points recorded in the tradition. All these ten points have to do with Vinaya and not with Dhamma.
Then about 100 years after the death of the Buddha there was a Buddhist council. After that council more differences came into being. When you reach the time of King Asoka there were as many as 18 different schools of Buddhism, maybe small sects. Actually there were not just 18 schools. There were more than 18 schools. At the third Buddhist council according to our TheravÈda tradition the Venerable MahÈ MoggalÊputta TissÈ (He was the teacher of King Asoka.) collected all these differences and then scrutinized them. He rejected them all as unorthodox. They are all recorded in the KathÈ-Vatthu. At that time there were differences both with regard to Vinaya and Dhamma. For example one group of teachers thought that even Ariyas could regress, that an Arahant could regress to the stage of SotÈpanna, but not lower than SotÈpanna. So after you become an Arahant you may go backward and become a Non-Returner and so on. Those differences arose between 100 and 200 years after the Buddha.
Student: Some of those schools persisted in the Sanskrit tradition.
Teacher: Oh, yes. We take Sanskrit to be later than PÈÄi tradition. That is because TheravÈda Buddhists accept PÈÄi language to be the nearest to the language that the Buddha used. MahÈyÈna Buddhists accept Sanskrit as the language for recording what they thought to be the teachings of the Buddha.
There are two kinds of Sanskrit. Some MahÈyÈna books were written in good Sanskrit, standard Sanskrit. But there are other sects, some that do not belong to MahÈyÈna proper and not to TheravÈda either. They belong to what is called ‘HÊnayÈna’. Those texts were just the translations from the PÈÄi. If you know the two languages, you can detect the peculiarities in language. Their Sanskrit is called ‘hybrid Sanskrit’ by Western scholars. It is not classical Sanskrit, not standard Sanskrit, but mixed Sanskrit.
Student: Those are some of the logic texts.
Teacher: There are some Vinaya Texts and other Texts. Let us go because it is out of the class. There is a word in PÈÄi that means a monk who has lived three rainy season months. The word is vassavuÔÔha. If we describe a monk as vassavuÔÔha, that means he has lived three months properly, three rainy season months. That means he did not break his stay at the monastery and he is innocent and so on. ‘VassavuÔÔha’ means one who has lived for the rainy season. That word when turned into the corresponding Sanskrit word would be ‘varsha-vritta’ in Sanskrit. The two languages are so similar that there can be correspondence. VassavuÔÔha in PÈÄi has the corresponding word ‘varsha-vritta’ in Sanskrit. Now in one of the hybrid Sanskrit books called ‘the Bhikshu Vinaya’ I saw varsha-vritta as well as vassavuÔÔha. That is directly translated from PÈÄi. In classical Sanskrit there is no such word as vassavuÔÔha. According to Sanskrit grammatical rules it cannot be formed like that. So I think they just transliterate, according to some rules of Sanskrit grammar, the PÈÄi word into Sanskrit. That is why their Sanskrit is called hybrid Sanskrit. It is not pure Sanskrit. Both words are met with in that book. So many Texts, both Sutta and Vinaya, are translations from the PÈÄi. But other Suttas are written in pure Sanskrit. TAPE ENDS.
SÈdhu! SÈdhu! SÈdhu!