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A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada

or The Doctrine of Dependent Origination

Chapter 15 - Sammasambuddha And Buddhahood

Both of the two Pali terms viz., Buddha and Sammasambuddha mean omniscience or knowledge of all the dhammas. This raises the question of how to make a distinction between the two attributes connected by the two terms. By the attribute of sammasambuddha, we are to understand that the bodhisatta attained Buddhahood on the basis of independent reflection, and effort and the realization of the Four Noble Truths through insight on the path of Arahatship. Buddhahood means the thorough and exhaustive knowledge of all the conditioned and the unconditioned dhammas on the basis of the unique attributes possessed by the Buddha such as omniscience (sabbannutanana), etc.

These unique attributes of the Buddha consist in knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, four kinds of analytical knowledge and six kinds of knowledge that are not to be found among disciples (asadharananana). The six asadharananana are: (1) knowledge of the different moral and spiritual levels of living beings, (2) knowledge of the desires, inclinations and latent tendencies (anusaya) of living beings, (3) the power to create super miracles (yamakapatihariyanana), (4) infinite compassion for all living beings, (5) omniscience, and (6) knowledge without any hindrance or obstruction of anything which the Buddha wants to know and which he brings into the focus of his attention.

Now a few words about the conditioned (sankhara) and unconditioned (asankhara) dhammas. The sankharas are the nama rupa or the five aggregates of khandhas that arise owing to the harmonious combination of relevant factors. In other words, they are the phenomena conditioned by favourable circumstances. Thus, sound is produced when there is friction between two hard objects such as sticks or iron bars. Here sound is sankhara. As opposed to sankhara is asankhara which has nothing to do with causes. The only ultimate reality (paramattha) in the category of asankhara dhammas is Nibbana. Of the non paramattha asankharas there are many kinds of names such as names of shapes, figures and so forth.

The Buddhas sabbannutanana is so called because it encompasses the whole range of conditioned and unconditioned dhammas. It is also described in terms of the five neyyadhamma viz., the sankhara, the distinctive qualities of certain rupas (nipphanna), the conditioned characteristics of nama rupa, Nibbana and names.

The first two attributes of the Buddha forming the knowledge of the different spiritual levels, inclinations and latent tendencies of living beings are labelled Buddha eye (Buddha cakkhu). With this all seeing eye, the Buddha chose the living beings who ought to be enlightened, and preached to them the appropriate dhamma at the appropriate moment.

We conclude the discourse on the Paticcasamuppada with the commentary on the attributes of the Buddha (Arahan) because we wish to inspire the readers with faith in the Blessed One. We hope that they will find the source of inspiration too, in the Arahats who also possess the Arahan attribute. The Arahat is wholly free from defilements, he has destroyed the framework of life cycle; there is no secret place where he will do evil and so he is worthy of honour. These are the qualities that make up his Arahan attribute although this attribute as possessed by the ordinary Arahat is below the superlative Arahan attribute of the Buddha.

So you should try to overcome defilements through mindfulness of the nama rupa processes that arise at the six sense doors, destroy the supports of the wheel of life and keep your mind pure all the time in order that you may eventually become Arahats and earn the glorious title of Arahan.

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