Word of the Buddha
Last time we were in the middle of the discussion about the Noble Ones. I think we ended up with the SotÈpannas or Stream-Entrants being incapable of breaking the five moral precepts. When a person becomes a SotÈpanna or a Stream-Entrant - “he will be reborn seven times at the utmost and not in a state lower than the human world.” So a SotÈpanna will be reborn in this round of rebirths seven times at the utmost. He will not be reborn in a state lower than the human world. That means he will not be reborn in the four woeful states in the state of hell, in the realm of hungry ghosts, in the animal kingdom, and in the state of another kind of ghosts which are called ‘demons’. So a person who has attained the Fruition of Stream-Entrant is free from rebirth in these lower states. He will be free from rebirth in the lower states because he does not do anything which will lead him to be reborn in these lower states.
Now let us look at the second stage. “One who has overcome the fourth and the fifth Fetters in their grosser form is called a ‘SakadÈgÈmi’, lit. ‘Once-Returner’.” The four and the fifth is to be taken from above. What is #4 among the ten fetters? Sensual lust (kÈma rÈga). And #5? Ill will (vyÈpÈda). ‘Ill will means anger or hatred. A SakadÈgÈmi does not eradicate any more mental defilements or fetters, but he overcomes the fourth and fifth fetters in their grosser forms. That means he makes them less powerful. A SakadÈgÈmi may still have sensual lust or attachment to sensual things and also he still has anger. But his sensual lust and anger is so weak that they cannot cause him to be reborn in the lower states. He will be reborn only once more in the sensuous sphere or kÈmaloka. ‘KÈmaloka’ here means the world of human beings or the world of devas or celestial beings. “And thereafter reach Holiness” - ‘Holiness’ really means Arahantship - he will become an Arahant.
“He will be reborn only once more in the Sensuous Sphere.” What so you think about that? He is a Once-Returner. That means he will come back here once. How many times will he be reborn before he becomes an Arahant? Once or twice? He must come back here. ‘Come back’ means by rebirth. If you come back here, that means you go to some other place. Right? Then you come here. So he will be reborn twice. He returns once is correct. But he will be reborn in another Sensuous Sphere; like he will be reborn as a human being, or he will be reborn as a deva, or even a Brahma. Then he will come back here and become an Arahant. So he will be reborn twice more, not once, in the Sensuous Sphere.
Student: Bhante, does that mean that one can only become an Arahant in this sphere, not in the higher realms?
Teacher: No. It is not that he has to, but it happens that he becomes an Arahant here. He is a Once-Returner.
The next one is the Non-Returner. He will not come back to this Sensuous Sphere. He will be reborn as a Brahma and he will become an Arahant there. So it is not a necessity that one must come back to become an Arahant. He happens to be reborn here and then he becomes an Arahant.
Now the third one is the AnÈgÈmÊ. “An AnÈgÈmÊ, lit. ‘Non-Returner’, is wholly freed from the first five Fetters which bind one to rebirth in the Sensuous Sphere.” What are the first five fetters? Self-illusion, skepticism, attachment to mere rule and ritual, sensual lust, ill will. When one becomes an AnÈgÈmÊ (a Non-Returner) he eradicates all five - sakkÈya diÔÔhi (self-illusion), vicikicchÈ (doubt about the Buddha, Dhamma, Sa~gha and so on), and then sÊlabbata parÈmÈsa. That means believing in certain practices especially acting like a dog or like a cow and so on, that they will lead to enlightenment. It is taking in that way. Then he eradicates kÈma rÈga (sensual lust). So an AnÈgÈmÊ does not have any attachment to sensual things. He will not be attached to his belongings or whatever, but he still has attachment for or craving for the Brahma World. So he still has attachment, but his attachment is not for the sensual things - not for the human world or the lower celestial worlds. He still has craving for birth in the Brahma Worlds. So he eradicates the first five fetters all together without any remainder.
“After death, while living in the Fine Material Sphere (r|paloka), he will reach the goal.” He will become an Arahant. So he will be reborn in the world of Brahmas. It is said that he will be reborn in the world of Brahmas called ‘the World of Pure Abodes’. It is the abode of the pure beings. They are the highest realms of the fine material sphere. There are all together 16 realms in the Fine Material Sphere. These five are the highest. Above them there are four immaterial spheres. A person who becomes an AnÈgÈmÊ in this life will be reborn as a Brahma in one of these five pure abodes. He will reach Arahantship in one of these abodes. Maybe in the first, or in the second, or in the third, or in the fourth, or in the fifth he is sure to become an Arahant. So an AnÈgÈmÊ is a person that still has rebirth. He is not out of the process of rebirth. He has not broken the cycle of rebirths in the round of rebirths. He still has to go some way before he reaches Arahantship. In fact he may live in saÑsÈra longer than a SotÈpanna or a SakadÈgÈmi. That is because if he is going to be reborn in the first Brahma World, then the second, third, fourth and fifth, he will be in saÑsÈra for a long, long time. So being an AnÈgÈmÊ does not mean that you will reach ParinibbÈna sooner than a SotÈpanna.
Student: So AnÈgÈmÊs may have multiple births in the Brahma World, not only one?
Teacher: Not only one.
Student: So what does ‘Non-Returner’ mean?
Teacher: Not coming back to the sensuous sphere. One will not be reborn again as a human being or a lower celestial being. So ‘Non-Returner’ means non-returner to this sensuous sphere, but not a non-returner to the cycle of rebirths. He still has some rebirths to go as a Brahma. He is not out of saÑsÈra yet.
The last one is the Arahant. “An Arahant, i.e. the perfectly ‘Holy One’, is freed from all the ten Fetters.” When a person becomes an Arahant, he is free from or he eradicates all ten fetters. He no longer has craving for fine material existence, craving for immaterial existence, conceit (mÈna), restlessness (uddhacca), ignorance (avijjÈ). So all mental defilements are eradicated by an Arahant. The PÈÄi word ‘Arahant’ means the ‘Worthy One’, one who is worthy to accept gifts brought to him by people. “An Arahant, i.e. the perfectly ‘Holy One’, is freed from all the ten Fetters.” Since he is free from all the ten fetters there is no rebirth for him. He is totally free from rebirth.
Student: What is the origin of the word ‘Arahant”?
Teacher: This word comes from the root ‘araha’ which means ‘to be worthy’.
Student: The ‘A’ is not a negation here?
Teacher: No. It is good that you asked this question. In AnÈgÈmÊ the ‘A’ or the ‘AN’ is a negation. It is divided into ‘na’ and ‘agÈmÊ’, not returning. But the ‘A’ in Arahant is not a negation. If we want to follow PÈÄi, we should say ‘Arahant’ instead of ‘Arahat’. In Sanskrit it is Arahat, but in PÈÄi it is Arahant.
The Buddha is also an Arahant. There are nine attributes of the Buddha, nine good qualities of the Buddha. These qualities begin with Arahant. The Buddha was an Arahant. The Buddha was SammÈsambuddho. The Buddha was VijjÈcaraÓasampanno and so on. So the Buddha was also an Arahant. But here ‘Arahant’ means a person who has reached the highest stage of enlightenment or the fourth stage of enlightenment, who has eradicated all mental defilements.
“Each of the aforementioned four stages of Holiness consists of the ‘Path’ (Magga) and the ‘Fruition’ (That is called ‘Phala’.), e.g. ‘Path of Stream Entry’ (SotÈpatti Magga) and ‘Fruition of Stream Entry’ (SotÈpatti Phala). Accordingly there are eight types, or four pairs, of Noble Individuals (Ariya Puggala).” It is often mentioned in the Suttas and in the Commentaries that there are eight Noble persons. Actually we can have personal contact with only four of them.
I think I explained this with the analogy of a person breaking a record. At the moment of breaking the record, he is the breaker of the record. After that moment he is the person who has broken the record. If you want to be very specific the record-breaker has only one moment, the actual moment of going past the line. At that very moment he is the record-breaker. Then beginning with the next moment he is the one who has broken the record. If he is going to break the record again, then the next time at that very moment he is the breaker of the record. Then after that he has broken the record. In the same way here Magga (Path) is the moment analogous to breaking the record. Phala (Fruition) is similar to the moments after breaking the record. At the moment of Magga the person is called in PÈÄi ‘SotÈpattimaggata’. That means one who is at the moment of SotÈpatti Magga. Then after that he is said to be at the moment of SotÈpatti Phala (Fruition). That is why there are said to be eight individuals - one at Magga, then one at Phala until he reaches the next Magga. So there are eight individuals, four pairs.
Student: If it is such a brief moment, why call him a person? Why not call him a Fruition Person?
Teacher: Magga moment is very important. It is the moment when he eradicates all mental defilements. It is like lightning which kills a tree. It is a very important moment. That is why he is taken as a separate person at that very moment. Then follows the Fruition moment. He has become a SotÈpanna. When he reaches the second stage, again there is Magga and Phala. In this way there are eight individuals and four pairs.
Student: So there are only four unique moments of Magga, but there are multiple moments of Phala. If you are in AnÈgÈmÊ, after the Magga moment the Phala moments can persist.
Teacher: Yes. It will come later. “The ‘Path’ consists of the single moment of entering the respective attainment. By ‘Fruition’ are meant those moments of consciousness which follow immediately thereafter as the result of the ‘Path’.” There is one moment of Path and two or three moments of Fruition. “And which under certain circumstances, may repeat innumerable times during life-time.” ‘May repeat’ really means ‘may be repeated’. They do not come about automatically. After becoming a SotÈpanna, if the person wants to enjoy the bliss of NibbÈna, then he practices meditation again and the Fruition consciousness arises in him. Billions of moments of Fruition consciousness may arise in him for as long as he decides to remain in that state. That is called ‘Attainment Concentration’ or something like that. The phala moments can be repeated billions of times before the person reaches the next stage. So ‘may repeat’ really means ‘may be repeated’. If he does not want to repeat, they will not repeat. “For further details, see Buddhist Dictionary: Ariya Puggala, SotÈpanna, etc.” These are eight Noble Persons. Actually there are only four Persons who are called ‘SotÈpanna (Stream Enterer), SakadÈgÈmi (Once-Returner), AnÈgÈmÊ (Non-Returner) and Arahant (Worthy One).
Student: So a person can be in three stages - the stage of Path, the stage of Fruition, and then he can be normal again until he wants to attain Fruition again and the - what is in between?
Teacher: No. After the Fruition he becomes what is called a ‘SotÈpanna’. He is no longer an ordinary person. But when he wants to get into Fruition consciousness, he does meditation again and lets the moments of Fruition consciousness repeat. From the moment of the first Fruition consciousness he is called a ‘SotÈpanna’ (Stream Entrant).
Student: There is only one Magga moment for each individual.
Teacher: That’s right. Magga moment cannot arise twice. Magga moment arises only once. The SotÈpatti Magga arises only once. The SakadÈgÈmi Magga arises only once. The AnÈgÈmÊ Magga arises only once. The Arahant Magga arises only once. Magga consciousness or Path consciousness arises only once in any individual. But Fruition moments can be repeated billions and billions of times.
Student: What is the purpose of going into Fruition billions and billions of times?
Teacher: This is called ‘happiness in this very life’. The Fruition moments are called ‘happiness in this very life’. If our minds have to take the conditioned things like things in the world, nÈma and r|pa in the world, it is said not to be in perfect happiness. What it takes as an object is not permanent. They are also changing every moment. But when consciousness takes NibbÈna as object, it is said to be in perfect bliss. This is the enjoyment of Noble Persons. It is not the enjoyment of ordinary persons. They want to enjoy the bliss of NibbÈna, so they induce the Fruition or Phala moments to arise. This phrase is repeated many times in the Suttas. In this very life having realized, and then there is the PÈÄi phrase diÔÔha dhamma sukha. That means happiness in this life. ‘Happiness in this life’ really means taking NibbÈna as object and enjoying the bliss of NibbÈna.
“Therefore, I say, Right Understanding is of two kinds.” There are two kinds of Right Understanding. We have not yet finished the explanation of Right Understanding. So there are two kinds of Right Understanding, the first of the eight factors, mundane and supramundane.
What is mundane right understanding? “The view that alms and offerings are not useless.” That means giving; giving is not useless. “That there is fruit and result, both of good and bad actions, that there are such things as this life, and the next life.” That means the belief in rebirth. “That father and mother, as also spontaneously born beings (in the heavenly worlds), are no mere words.” That means there is father, there is mother. That means doing good things for our mothers and our fathers brings results. “As also spontaneously born beings (in the heavenly worlds)” - ‘spontaneously born beings’ means beings who are reborn as fully grown beings. They don’t have to be in the womb of a mother or in an egg. It is said that when the devas are born, they are born as about 16 years of age. They are called ‘spontaneously born beings’. It is not necessarily in the heavenly worlds. In the lower worlds also there are spontaneously born beings. If you are going to be reborn in hell, you are just reborn there spontaneously. So it is not necessarily in the heavenly worlds.
“That there are in the world monks and priests, who are spotless and perfect, who can explain this life and the next life, which they themselves have understood - this is called the ‘Mundane Right Understanding’ (lokiya sammÈ diÔÔhi), which yields worldly fruits and brings good results.” This is called ‘ten-membered or ten constituent right understanding’. There are ten topics here - alms not useless, offerings not useless, that there is fruit and the result of both good and bad actions, that there is such thing as this life (This life is one.), that there is next life is another, there is father, there is mother, there are spontaneous beings. How many do you get?
Teacher: There are monks and priests who are spotless and perfect. There are only nine. Why? Let me see. Alms are not useless, offerings are not useless - one is left out. In PÈÄi there are three words - dinna, yiÔÔha and huta. ‘Dinna’ means giving a little. ‘YiÔÔha’ means giving more. ‘Huta’ means just giving as a sacrifice. So there are three of them there. In the translation there are only two. So there are three of them there. In the translation there are only two. That is why we got only nine. They are called ‘ten-membered sammÈ diÔÔhi. This is actually belief in kamma and its results. ‘Alms is not useless’ means giving is not useless. Giving has results. ‘Offerings are not useless’ means offerings have results and so on. It is the belief in kamma and its results. This is lokiya sammÈ diÔÔhi (mundane right understanding).
The second one is the Supramundane Right Understanding.
Student: What does it mean - monks and priests?
Teacher: It is the translation of the word ‘brÈmaÓa’.
Student: So does it mean one could be a non-Buddhist priest with that understanding of Dhamma?
Teacher: I think it means Buddhists. It is Buddhists who have really understood, or those who have realized NibbÈna, or who have attained enlightenment. The word ‘brÈhmaÓa’ is used in Buddhist Suttas to mean a Noble Person or an Arahant. The word ‘brÈhmaÓa’ is not a Buddhist word actually. It comes from Hinduism. There the word ‘brÈhmaÓa’ means a class of people, the priest class. They are religious people. In Hinduism they are first. They are the highest. Below them is the warrior class. That means kings and princes. Below them there are merchants. And then the fourth class is ordinary people. Buddha used the word ‘brÈhmaÓa’ quite often in the Suttas to mean Noble Person. There is one section in the Dhammapada, the last section, which is called ‘BrÈhmaÓa Vagga’. There the Buddha described what person we call a ‘brÈhmaÓa’. There every verse refers to the state of an Arahant. So here ‘monks and priests’ means monks and those who have attained enlightenment.
Student: so he is referring there to attained virtues and not inherited ones.
Teacher: No. It cannot be inherited. In one of the Suttas the Buddha said: “You become a brÈhmaÓa not by birth but by your own actions.” But in Hinduism it is hereditary. If you are the son of a brÈhmaÓa, then you become a brÈhmaÓa.
Now the second one is Supramundane Right Understanding. “But whatsoever there is of wisdom, of penetration, of right understanding conjoined with the ‘Path’ (of the SotÈpanna, SakadÈgÈmi, AnÈgÈmÊ, or Arahant) - the mind being turned away from the world and conjoined with the Path, the holy Path being pursued - this is called ‘Supermundane Right Understanding (Lokuttara SammÈ DiÔÔhi), which is not of the world, but is supermundane, and conjoined with the Path.” ‘Supramundane Right Understanding’ means Right Understanding at the moment of Path consciousness. Right Understanding is actually paÒÒÈ, the mental factor. It accompanies or it arises at the same time with Path or Magga. At that very moment Path consciousness arises with 36 mental factors. Among those 36 mental factors there is Right Understanding. Right Understanding is called ‘Supramundane Right Understanding’ here.
Then as you know there are Fruition moments. With Fruition consciousness Right Understanding arises. That Right Understanding is also Supramundane Right Understanding. ‘Supramundane Right Understanding’ means the understanding accompanying the Path consciousness and the Fruition consciousness.
“Thus there are two kinds of the Eightfold Path: 1. The ‘mundane’ (lokiya), practiced by the ‘Worldling’ (puthujjana), i.e. by all those who have not yet reached the first stage of Holiness; 2. The ‘supermundane’ (lokuttara) practiced by the ‘Noble Ones’ (Ariya Puggala).” There may be some misunderstanding about this. ‘Practiced by the Worldling’ is lokiya, as it is stated here. ‘Practiced by the Noble Ones’ is lokuttara. What about a person who becomes a SotÈpanna? After becoming a SotÈpanna, he wants to become a SakadÈgÈmi. What must he do? He must practice vipassanÈ meditation again. That vipassanÈ meditation is lokiya. It is not called ‘lokuttara’. When he reaches the second Path, at that very moment of Magga and the moments following of Phala are lokuttara. So it is not accurate to say that mundane Eightfold Path is that practiced by the worldling because Noble Persons also have to practice the mundane Eightfold Path in order to reach higher stages of enlightenment. Only when they reach the highest stage of enlightenment are they called ‘lokuttara’ or ‘supramundane’. Supramundane Eightfold Path is the group of eight mental factors arising at the moment of Path. Mundane Eightfold Path is the group of factors arising especially during the practice of vipassanÈ meditation for the purpose of reaching Path and Fruition. An Ariya (a Noble Person) can be said to be practicing lokiya (mundane) Eightfold Path when he is practicing vipassanÈ meditation to reach the second stage, the third stage and the fourth stage. Lokuttara or Supramundane Path is the group of these factors which arise together with Path consciousness and also with Fruition consciousness.
“ Now, in understanding wrong understanding as wrong and right understanding as right, one practices Right Understanding (1st factor); and in making efforts to overcome wrong understanding, and to arouse right understanding, one practices ‘Right Effort’ (6th factor).” Without Right Effort you cannot reach Right Understanding. “And in overcoming wrong understanding with attentive mind, and dwelling with attentive mind in the possession of right understanding one practices ‘Right Mindfulness’ (7th factor). Hence, there are three things that accompany and follow upon right understanding, namely: Right Understanding, Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness.”
If you study Abhidhamma, you know that with consciousness mental factors arise. Right Understanding, Right Effort and Right Mindfulness are all mental factors. These mental factors arise with every moment of the practice of meditation. Let us say you practice meditation concentrating on the breath or concentrating on the movements of the abdomen. Without effort you cannot keep your mind on the breath or the movement of the abdomen. If there is no mindfulness, your mind cannot be on the object. So you have to make effort for your mind to hit the object, to be on the object, and to stay on the object for some time. That is concentration. Only after concentration comes is there right understanding. Without concentration there can be no right understanding. Therefore there are not only three, but actually there are four factors, four faculties, or four factors of the Eightfold Path that are working harmoniously at every moment of concentration or meditation - effort, mindfulness, concentration and understanding. These four must be present, doing their individual functions, but they arise at the same time. Here only Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Understanding are given. Later on with other factors of the Path the combining of one factor with other factors will be given.
“Now, if any one should put the question, whether I admit any theory at all, he should be answered thus.” Somebody asked the Buddha whether he has theories or he has diÔÔhigata. That mean some opinion about something. And the Buddha said: “No.”
“the Perfect One is free from any theory, for the Perfect One has understood what corporeality is (what r|pa is) and how it arises and passes away.” When a person has understood r|pa, how it arises and how it passes away, he does not have any opinion about that r|pa because he really sees that r|pa. He really knows how it arises and how it passes away. So he doesn’t have any opinion about that, any theory about r|pa. He really understands.
“He has understood what feeling is, and how it arises and passes away. He has understood what perception is, and how it arises and passes away. He has understood what the mental formations are, and how they arise and pass away. He has understood what consciousness is, and how it arises and passes away. Therefore I say, the perfect One has won complete deliverance through the extinction, fading away, disappearance, rejection, and getting rid of all opinions and conjectures of all inclination to the vain-glory of ‘I’ and ‘mine’.” The Buddha has eradicated all mental defilements. And so the Buddha did not have theory or any opinion.
Next are the three characteristics. “Whether Perfect Ones (Buddhas) appear in the world, or whether Perfect Ones do not appear in the world, it still remains a firm condition, an immutable fact and fixed law: that all formations are impermanent (anicca), that all formations are subject to (or are) suffering (dukkha); that everything is without a Self (anatta).” This is a very good statement. Anicca, dukkha and anatta are not invented by the Buddha. They are always there. Buddhas just discover these characteristics. Whether Buddhas arise in this world or not, they are always there. Something is anicca not because the Buddha said that it is anicca, but just by nature it is anicca. The Buddha just discovered it and revealed it to people. The same is said for Dependent Origination and others.
“Whether Perfect Ones (Buddhas) appear in the world, or whether Perfect Ones do not appear in the world, it still remains a firm condition, an immutable fact and fixed law: that all formations are impermanent (anicca), that all formations are suffering (dukkha); that everything is without a Self (anatta).” With regard to anicca and dukkha it says that all formations are impermanent and all formations are suffering. But with regard to anatta it says that everything is anatta, everything is without a self. In PÈÄi it is: sabbe sa~khÈra aniccÈ, sabbe sa~khÈra dukkhÈ, and sabbe dhamma anattÈ. In the last sentence the word ‘dhamma’ is used instead of ‘sa~khÈra’. it is important to understand that. I think we have met with this statement before at the beginning of the book.
“The word ‘sa~khÈra’ (formations) comprises here all things that are conditioned or ‘formed’ (sankhata dhamma).” Everything that is conditioned is called a ‘sa~khÈra’. “That is all possible physical and mental constituents of existence.” Everything that we see, everything that we have, everything that we experience is sa~khÈra, is conditioned. R|pa is conditioned. NÈma is conditioned. So everything is conditioned. When we say ‘sabbe sa~khÈra’, we mean everything in the world.
“The word ‘dhamma’, however, has a still wider application and is all-embracing, as it comprises also the so-called Unconditioned (unformed, asankhata), i.e. NibbÈna.” When we say ‘sabbe dhamma anattÈ (all dhammas are anatta), we also mean NibbÈna. NibbÈna is anatta. NibbÈna is not attÈ; it is anatta. So the word ‘dhamma’ has a wider application than the word ‘sa~khÈra’. When we say ‘sa~khÈra’, we mean just the formations or nÈma and r|pa which are conditioned. When we say ‘dhamma’, we mean both sa~khÈra and also the unconditioned or NibbÈna. That is why the Buddha did not say ‘sabbe sa~khÈra anattÈ’ here. If he had said ‘sabbe sa~khÈra anattÈ’, then NibbÈna would be left out and NibbÈna would be attÈ. NibbÈna is also anatta. NibbÈna is not an attÈ. So in the third sentence the Buddha said: “Sabbe dhamma anattÈ.”
“For this reason, it would be wrong to say that all dhammas are impermanent.” That is because when we say ‘all dhammas’, NibbÈna is included there. “For this reason, it would be wrong to say that all dhammas are impermanent and subject to change, for the NibbÈna dhamma is permanent and free from change. And for the same reason, it is correct to say that not only all the sa~khÈras (= sankhata dhamma), but that all the dhammas (including the asankhata dhamma) lack an Ego (anatta).”
With regard to the word ‘sankhata’ please note that it means ‘conditioned’ or ‘made’ actually. In one Sutta the Buddha used the word ‘made’ together with the word ‘sankhata’. Sankhata is not compounded but conditioned. Please tell me what the word ‘compounded’ means. ‘Put together’ or something like that. Right? So having parts. But the word ‘sankhata’ here means ‘made’. This distinction is important because I read in one book written by a woman where she says that the word ‘sankhata’ means compounded. Therefore NibbÈna is not unconditioned. So ‘sankhata’ means ‘formed’ or ‘made’. And ‘asankhata’ means ‘not formed’ or ‘not made’, so not conditioned. NibbÈna is unconditioned, so it is called ‘asankhata’.
When we talk about vipassanÈ, let us say you practice vipassanÈ. If the last sentence ‘sabbe dhamma anattÈ’ refers to vipassanÈ, then in that case ‘dhamma means the same thing as sa~khÈra. You have to be very careful about that. If it is just a statement, not referring to vipassanÈ, then ‘sabbe dhamma anattÈ’ means all dhammas, including NibbÈna, are anatta. But if you are saying this sentence with reference to vipassanÈ, then ‘sabbe dhamma’ means the same thing as ‘sabbe sa~khÈra’. That is because NibbÈna cannot be the object of vipassanÈ. VipassanÈ cannot take NibbÈna as object. VipassanÈ takes sa~khÈras as object. When you practice vipassanÈ, you try to see mind and matter as impermanent and so on. So if you are talking with reference to vipassanÈ, ‘sabbe dhamma’ and ‘sabbe sa~khÈra’ are the same. If you are saying this as a general statement, then ‘sabbe dhamma anattÈ’ means all dhammas including NibbÈna are anatta.
Student: Bhante, isn’t the fact of anicca, dukkha and anatta which is here called ‘a firm condition, immutable and fixed’, isn’t the fact of those three signs another permanent, unchanging thing? Are the three characteristics a constant, fixed, permanent feature? They never change?
Student: But I thought that only the unformed was permanent, unfixed. Or am I wrong?
Teacher: No. The law is just a law. The law has no substance. So we cannot say that law is impermanent or whatever. The thing which has this law as characteristic is impermanent. R|pa is impermanent, but the impermanence of r|pa is not impermanent. It is very important. Sometimes people go too far and say that everything is impermanent. So impermanence must also be impermanent, so that we get permanence. Two negations become a positive. Right? We cannot apply that because it is a law.
Student: The law is fixed.
Teacher: Yes. It is the nature of nÈma and r|pa, but not nÈma and r|pa itself. NÈma and r|pa itself are impermanent. Their impermanence is not impermanent.
“A corporeal phenomenon, a feeling, a perception, a mental formation, a consciousness, which is permanent and persistent, eternal and not subject to change, such a thing the wise men in this world do not recognize; and I also say there is no such thing.” So Buddha could not find any r|pa, any vedanÈ and so on which is permanent and persistent.
“And it is impossible that a being possessed of right understanding should regard anything as the Self (as everlasting).”
Let us look at views and discussion about the ego. “Now, if someone should say that feeling is his Self, he should be answered thus: ‘There are three kinds of feeling: pleasurable, painful, and indifferent feeling. Which of these three feelings do you consider as your Self’? Because, at the moment of experiencing one of these feelings, one does not experience the other two.” When you have a pleasurable feeling, you don’t have painful feeling nor do you have indifferent feeling. If you take pleasurable feeling as Œtman or as permanent, then what happens when you experience painful feeling?
“Because, at the moment of experiencing one of these feelings, one does not experience the other two. These three kinds of feeling are impermanent, of dependent origin, are subject to decay and dissolution, to fading away and extinction. Whosoever in experiencing one of these feelings, thinks that this is his Self, must after the extinction of that feeling, admit that his Self has become dissolved. And thus he will consider his Self already in this present life as impermanent, mixed up with pleasure and pain, subject to rising and passing away.”
“If any one should say that feeling is not his Ego, and that his Self is inaccessible to feeling, he should be asked thus: ‘Now, where there is no feeling, is it then possible to say: “This am I?” ‘If any one should say that feeling is not his Ego, and that his Self is inaccessible to feeling’ - that means he takes his r|pa as ego, r|pa as attÈ, not feeling as attÈ. Feeling is not his ego. So his ego is some other thing.
“Or, another might say: ‘Feeling, indeed, is not my Self, but it also is untrue that my Self is inaccessible to feeling, for it is my Self that feels, my Self that has the faculty of feeling’.” Here this person takes perception, formations and consciousness, these three as attÈ and the feeling as an instrument or something like that with which they feel.
“such a one should be answered thus: ‘Suppose that feeling should become altogether totally extinguished; now, if after the extinction of feeling, no feeling whatever exists there, is it then possible to say: “This am I?” I looked it up in the Commentary and the Commentary did not give any explanation of this passage. I think it refers to what we call ‘the attainment of cessation’. The AnÈgÈmÊs and Arahants can get that attainment of cessation. During that attainment of cessation all mental activities are suspended. All mental activities cease. I think only then can we say that feeling becomes altogether totally extinguished. There is no feeling at that time, no consciousness, no perception, no mental activity. At other times there is always one kind of feeling. You have always painful feeling, pleasurable feeling, or indifferent feeling. That is because feeling accompanies every type of consciousness. Feeling is a universal mental factor. So there is always feeling. If feeling were to be extinguished totally, I think that refers to the attainment of cessation. During the attainment of cessation only r|pa remains. NÈma just disappears for some period of time. “If after the extinction of feeling, no feeling whatever exists there, is it then possible to say: ‘This am I’?”
“To say the mind, or the mind-objects, or the mind-consciousness, constitute the Self, such an assertion is unfounded. For an arising and a passing away is seen there; and seeing the arising and passing away of these things, one would come to the conclusion that one’s Self arises and passes away.”
“It would be better for the unlearned worldling to regard his body, built up of the four elements, as his Self, rather than his mind. For it is evident that the body may last for a year, for two years, for three, four, five, or ten years, or even for a hundred years and more; but that which is called thought, or mind, or consciousness, arises continuously, during day and night, as one thing, and passes away as another thing.” It would be better to take r|pa as permanent rather than nÈma as permanent if we have no understanding of the Buddha’s Dhamma. That is because we can say that our body remains for some time. We all came here. Before we came here, we all have this body. We think that the same body is existing now. So it is easier, it is better to take the physical body as permanent or as self rather than consciousness. That is because our consciousness or our mind always changes. “for it is evident that the body may last for a year, for two years, for three, four, five, or ten years, or even for a hundred years and more; but that which is called thought, or mind, or consciousness, arises continuously, during day and night, as one thing, and passes away as another thing.”
“Therefore, whatsoever there is of corporeality, of feeling, of perception, of mental formations, of consciousness whether past, present or future, one’s own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near: of this one should understand according to reality and true wisdom: ‘This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is no my Self’.”
“To show the impersonality and utter emptiness of existence, Visuddhi Magga XVI quotes the following verse:
‘Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found,
The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there.
NibbÈna is, but not the man that enters it.
The path is, but no traveler on it is seen’.”
This is a translation of a verse in the Visuddhi Magga. The third line - “NibbÈna is, but not the man that enters it.” It’s a little strange. When we say that NibbÈna is, but not the man that enters it, then we kind of admit NibbÈna to be some place, like a realm that we can enter. Whenever we talk about NibbÈna, we think of it as a realm, some place. NibbÈna is not a place, not a realm. The PÈÄi word in the Visuddhi Magga is not ‘enters it’. The direct translation would be: “There is going out, but no person that goes out”; or in other words “there is extinction, but no person that is extinguished.” So it is not ‘the man that enters it’. We cannot say there is NibbÈna here. There is going out, but no person who goes out or who has gone out.
“The path is, but no traveler on it is seen.” There is a path, but no goer exists. There is suffering, but no sufferer or person who suffers.
“If now, any one should ask: ‘Have you been in the past, and is it untrue that you have not been? Will you be in the future, and is it untrue that you will not be? Are you, and is it untrue that you are not?’ - you may reply that you have been in the past, and that it is untrue that you have not been; that you will be in the future, and that it is untrue that you will not be; that you are, and that it is untrue that you are not.”
“In the past only that past existence was real, but unreal the future and present existence. In the future only the future existence will be real, but unreal the past and the present existence. Now only the present existence is real, but unreal, the past and future existence.” The past has already past and the future has not come and so they are not real. So at every moment what is real is the present one.
“Verily, he who perceives the ‘Dependent Origination’ (PaÔicca SamuppÈda), perceives the truth; and he who perceives the truth, perceives the Dependent Origination.” Dependent Origination is equated with truth or Dhamma. He who sees the Dhamma sees the Dependent Origination; he who sees Dependent Origination sees the Dhamma.
The statement we have just read on Dependent Origination should be between the two statements that follow. It is out of place here. The statement that begins “For just as from the cow comes milk” directly follows the statement that begins “In the past only that past existence was real.”
Buddha explains further. “For just as from the cow comes milk, from milk curd, from curd butter, from butter ghee, from ghee the skim of ghee; and when it is milk, it is not counted as curd, or butter, or ghee, or skim of ghee, but only as milk; and when it is curd, it is only counted as curd: - just so was my past existence at that time real, but unreal the future and present existence; and my future existence will be at that time real, but unreal the past and present existence; and my present existence is now real, but unreal the past and future existence. All these are merely popular designations and expressions, mere conventional terms of speaking, mere popular notions. The Perfect One indeed makes use of these, without however clinging to them.”
“Thus, he who does not understand corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness according to reality (i.e. as void of a personality, or Ego) nor understands their arising, their extinction, and the way to their extinction, he is liable to believe, either that the Perfect One continues after death, or that he does not continue after death, and so forth.” There was a discussion about whether the Buddha will continue after death and so on. OK. I think we will stop here.
SÈdhu! SÈdhu! SÈdhu!