A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada

by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw | 62,614 words

The Paticcasamuppada refers to “The Doctrine of Dependent Origination”. This is the English translation done by U Aye Maung Published by U Min Swe Buddhasasana Nuggaha Organization Rangoon, Burma....

Chapter 9 - Other Silabbata Practices

Besides the mode of life of cows and dogs there are other practices that can be described as silabbata. Some people emulate the elephants, horses, and so forth. In other words, they worship animals. The commentary refers to king worshippers which may mean in Burma people who worship various nats. Nat worship among Burmese people is not motivated by the desire for liberation from samsara (life cycle). It stems from the hope for material benefits here and now and as such it does not fall within the scope of silabbatupadana, but it is upadana over the belief that leads some people to make animal sacrifice in their worship of the nats.

There are also fire worship, naga worship, moon worship, sun worship, spirit worship and so forth. If the object in any kind of worship is to have happiness or spiritual liberation after death, it is silabbatupadana. In short, all practices divorced from the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path are labelled silabbata and attachment to them as the way to salvation is silabbatupadana.

The yogi who has attained at least the sotapanna stage through the contemplation of nama rupa is well aware of the right path to Nibbana and so he has freed himself from the belief in silabbata. He knows empirically that the way to the end of suffering is only through the introspection of nama rupa and the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path.

For example, if you know from experience how to go from this meditation centre to Shwedagon pagoda, you will not be misled by anyone who points out the wrong way. Likewise, the yogi at the sotapanna stage knows the right way to Nibbana and so he has no illusion about the beliefs and practices such as belief in God, nat worship or asceticism that pass for the way to salvation.

Those who do not know the right path are not free from such illusion. They may have acquired it from their ignorant parents, teachers or friends; or because of their poor basic knowledge, they might have been misguided by books that advocate false beliefs and practices. The ordinary man (puthujjana) is ignorant of the right path to Nibbana and so he will have to reckon with many teachers and practices through his samsaric existence. If he falls for a false teacher or a false practice, he is in for a lot of suffering. Thus the practice of austerities will only cause hardships and pain and the performance of animal sacrifice will certainly lead to the lower worlds.

It is also upadana over silabbata to believe that rupajhana or arupajhana means complete salvation. In short, even the moral perfection or jhanic attainment in the mundane sphere, though commendable, may lead to silabbatupadana if it is divorced from the holy path of vipassana and regarded as the total liberation. Udaka sutta of Samyutta nikaya refers to the rishi Udaka, who having attained the arupa world through his arupajhana declared that he had uprooted the cause of dukkha and made an end of it. This was also the illusion of another rishi called Alara. This illusion or upadana led to their good kamma which in turn led to their rebirth in the arupa worlds.

So in his discourse to Baka brahma, the Buddha says: “I see the dangers of birth, old age, death, etc., inherent in the three worlds of sensuality, rupa and arupa. I see those who seek Nibbana still bound to existence. So I do not approve of any kind of existence. I have repudiated all attachment to existence.”

Like the two rishis, those who do not know the Buddhas teaching never attain their goal. Although they seek permanent happiness, they follow the wrong path of silabbata and remain entangled in the samsaric existence of dukkha. So we can hardly over emphasize the importance of right effort on the right path as pointed out by the Buddha.

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