A Manual of Abhidhamma

by Nārada Thera | 80,494 words | ISBN-13: 9789380336510

In the Abhidhammattha Sangaha there is a brief exposition of the Law of Dependent Origination, followed by a descriptive account of the Causal Relations that finds no parallel in any other philosophy. Edited in the original Pali Text with English Translation and Explanatory Notes by Narada Maha Thera....

The Path of Purification

When the jhānas are developed, the mind is so purified, that it resembles a polished mirror, where everything is clearly reflected in true perspective. Still, there is not complete freedom from unwholesome thoughts, for, by concentration, the evil tendencies are only temporarily inhibited. They may rise to the surface at quite unexpected moments.

Discipline regulates words and deeds; concentration controls the mind; but it is Insight (paññā) the third and the final stage, that enables the aspirant to Sainthood to eradicate wholly the defilements inhibited by samādhi.

At the outset he cultivates 'Purity of Vision' (ditthi visuddhi) (the third member of the Path of Purity) in order to see things as they truly are. With a one-pointed mind he analyses and examines this so-called being. This searching examination shows that what he has called 'I', is merely a complex compound of mind and matter which are in a state of constant flux.

Having thus gained a correct view of the real nature of this so-called being, freed from the false notion of a permanent soul, he searches for the causes of this 'I' personality. He realizes that there is nothing in the world which is not conditioned by some cause or causes, past or present, and that his present existence is due to past ignorance (avijjā), craving (tanhā), attachment (upādāna), Kamma, and physical food of the present life. On account of these five causes this so-called being has arisen, and as past causes have conditioned the present, so the present will condition the future. Meditating thus, he transcends all doubts with regard to past, present and future (kankhāvitaranavisuddhi, the fourth member of the Path of Purity).

Thereupon he contemplates the truth that all conditioned things are transient (anicca), subject to suffering (dukkha), and devoid of an immortal soul (anattā). Wherever he turns his eyes he sees naught but these three characteristics standing out in bold relief. He realizes that life is a flux conditioned by internal and external causes. Nowhere does he find any genuine happiness for everything is fleeting.

As he thus contemplates the real nature of life, and is absorbed in meditation a day comes, when, to his surprise, he witnesses an aura (obhāsa) emitted by his body. He experiences an unprecedented pleasure happiness and quietude. He becomes even-minded, his religious fervour increases, mindfulness becomes clear and insight keen. Mistaking this advanced state of moral progress for Sainthood, chiefly owing to the presence of the aura, he develops a liking for this mental state. Soon the realization comes that these new developments are impediments to moral progress and he cultivates the purity of knowledge with regard to the Path and Non-Path (maggāmaggañānadassanavisuddhi, the fifth member of the Path of Purity).

Perceiving the right path, he resumes his meditation on the arising (udaya ñāna) and passing away (vaya ñāna) of all conditioned things. Of these two states the latter becomes more impressed on his mind since change is more conspicuous than becoming. Therefore he directs his attention to contemplation of the dissolution of things (bhanga ñāna). He perceives that both mind and matter which constitute this so-called being are in a state of constant flux, not remaining the same for two consecutive moments. To him then comes the knowledge that all dissolving things are fearful (bhaya ñāna). The whole world appears to him like a pit of burning embers, a source of danger. Subsequently he reflects on the wretchedness and vanity (ādīnava ñāna) of the fearful and deluded world, and develops a feeling of disgust (nibbidā ñāna), followed by a strong will for deliverance from it (muñcitukamyatā ñāna).

With this object in view, he resumes his meditation on the three characteristics of transiency, sorrow, and soullessness (patisankhā ñāna), and thereafter develops complete equanimity towards all conditioned things, having neither attachment nor aversion for any worldly object (upekkhā ñāna).{GL_NOTE::}

Reaching this point of spiritual culture, he chooses one of the three characteristics for his object of special endeavour and intently cultivates Insight in that particular direction until the glorious day when he first realizes Nibbāna,{GL_NOTE::} his ultimate goal.

"As the traveler by night sees the landscape around him by a flash of lightning, and the picture so obtained swims long thereafter before his dazzled eyes, so the individual seeker, by the flashing light of insight, glimpses Nibbāna with such clearness that the after-picture never more fades from his mind".

(Dr. Paul Dahlke)

When the spiritual pilgrim realizes Nibbāna for the first time he is called a Sotāpanna (see Chapter I) - one who has entered the stream that leads to Nibbāna for the first time. The Stream represents the noble Eightfold Path. A Stream-Winner is no more a worldling (puthujjana), but an Ariya (Noble).

On attaining this first stage of Sainthood he eradicates the following three Fetters (samyojana) that bind him to existence, namely:

  1. Sakkāya-ditthi - sati + kāye + ditthi, literally, view when a group exists. Here kāya refers to the five Aggregates of matter, feeling, perception, mental states, and consciousness, or, in other words, to the complex-compound of mind and matter. The view that there is one unchanging entity, a permanent soul, when there is a complex-compound of psycho physical aggregates is termed sakkāya-ditthi. Dhammasangani enumerates twenty kinds of such soul theories (see Dhammasangani Translation, pp. 257-259). Sakkāya-ditthi is usually rendered by self-illusion, theory of individuality, illusion of individualism
  2. Vicikicchā - Doubts. They are doubts about 1. the Buddha, 2. the Dhamma, 3. the Sangha, 4. the disciplinary rules (sikkhā), 5. the past, 6. the future, 7. both the past and the future, and 8. Dependent Arising (paticca-samuppāda). (see Dhammasangani Translation p. 239)
  3. Sīlabbataparāmāsa - Adherence to (wrongful) rites and ceremonies. Dhammasangani explains it thus: "It is the theory held by ascetics an Brahmins outside this doctrine, that purification is obtained by rules of moral conduct, or by rites, or by both rules of moral conduct and rites".

For the eradication of the remaining seven Fetters a Sotāpanna is reborn seven times at most. He gains implicit confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. He would not for any reason violate any of the five precepts. He is not subject to states of woe as he is destined for Enlightenment.

With fresh courage as a result of this distant glimpse of Nibbāna, the noble pilgrim makes rapid progress, and perfecting his Insight, becomes a Sakadāgāmi - Once-Returner - reaching the second stage of Sainthood by attenuating two other Fetters, namely, sense-desires (kāmāraga) and ill will (patigha).

Now he is called a Once-Returner because he is born in the human realm only once, should he not attain Arahatship in that birth itself. It is interesting to note that the Ariya Saint who has attained the second stage of Sainthood can only weaken these two powerful Fetters with which he is bound from a beginningless past. At times, though to a slight extent, he harbours thoughts of lust and anger.

It is by attaining the third State of Sainthood, that of the Anāgāmi (Never-Returner), that he completely eradicates these two Fetters. Thereafter he neither returns to this world nor is he born in the celestial realms, since he has rooted out the desire for sensual gratification. After death he is reborn in the Pure Abodes (Suddhāvāsa), an environment exclusively reserved for Anāgāmis and Arahats.

A layman may become an Anāgāmi, provided he leads a celibate life.

The Anāgāmi Saint now makes his final advance and destroying the remaining five Fetters, namely, attachment to Realms of Form (rūparāga) attachment to Formless Realms (arūparāga), pride (māna), restlessness (uddhacca), and ignorance (avijjā), attains Arahatship the final state of Sainthood.

Stream-Winners, Once-Returners, Never-Returners are called Sekhas because they have yet to undergo training. Arahats are called Asekhas because they no longer need any training.

An Arahat, literally, a Worthy One, is not subject to rebirth because he does not accomplish fresh Karmic activities, the seeds of his reproduction in matter have all been destroyed.

The Arahat realizes that what was to be accomplished has been done. A heavy burden of sorrow has finally been relinquished, and all forms of craving and all shades of ignorance are totally annihilated. The happy pilgrim now stands on heights more than celestial, far removed from uncontrolled passions and the defilements of the world.

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