l. The Buddha
Prince Siddartha was the eldest son of King Suddhodhana. His mother was Queen Mahāmaya, and on the night he was conceived, she had a wonderful dream. She related the dream to her royal husband, who summoned the Sage Asita to explain its meaning. He told the royal parents that the Queen had conceived a son who would one day become either a Universal Monarch or a Buddha.
The King wanted his son to become a Universal Monarch and did not like the idea of his son becoming a Buddha. With that aim, he surrounded his son with sensual pleasures.
Prince Siddartha was married to Princess Yasodhara. He was given 3 palaces to suit the 3 seasons. One day, whilst he was driving through the Park, he saw an aged person. On another occasion he saw a diseased person, and later a dead corpse.
All this is described in the Anguttara Nikāya, III, 35, as, ’Warnings’ regarding decay, disease, and death, and has been put in a rhetorical way.
Did you never see in the world a man, or a woman, eighty, or ninety, or a hundred years old, frail, crooked as a gable roof, bent down, resting on crutches, with tottering steps, infirm, youth long since fled, with broken teeth, gray and scanty hair, or bald headed, wrinkled, with blotched limbs? And did the thought never come to you that also you are subject to decay, that you cannot escape it?
Did you never see in the world a man, or a woman who, being sick, afflicted, and grievously ill, and wallowing in their filth, was lifted up by some people, and put to bed by others? And did the thought never come to you that also you are subject to disease, and also you cannot escape it?
Did you never see in the world the corpse of a man, or a woman, one or two or three days after death, swollen, blue black in color, and full of corruption? And did the thought never come to you that also you are subject to death, and that also you cannot escape it?
What he saw and the explanations he received no doubt made a great impression on this introspective young man.
At the age of 29, on the birth of a child, he renounced his kingdom, for the purpose of solving the riddle of birth and death.
For fully 6 years, he studied under the Greatest Teachers of the day, meditating, or what would be called concentration his mind. Finally, along with 5 companions, called the 5 Vaggi, he took to ascetic practices and achieved all the psychic powers that could be got.
He had obtained the 5 super intellections, called abhiññas, one of which was the seeing of past existences. He was a Hindu and had the preconceived idea that what he saw were the souls of the different beings transmigrating from existence to existence.
One day he fell down in a swoon for lack of strength. On his recovery he realized that he was not getting to the bottom of what he renounced his kingdom to find out, namely the problem of birth and death.
He began to eat again and finally on the full moon eve of May he sat down under the Bodhi tree to meditate. The time was now ripe for him to distinguish between ultimate realities and conventional concepts and ideas.
It was only by meditating on ultimate realities that he came to realize the illusions and delusions and hallucinations and perversions induced by Mind-Consciousness, allegorized as Māra, the King of Darkness, whom I have called the Great Magician. The Buddha achieved Enlightenment at the dawn of the next day.
He now understood that there was no transmigration of souls but results of deeds which brings about beings from one existence to another.
2. Ultimates (paramattha)
Water exists. However, a molecule of water can be subdivided into H2 O, namely, two atoms of hydrogen to one atom of oxygen; therefore, water, as such, cannot be regarded as an ultimate, for an ultimate, by definition, is something that cannot be subdivided.
Once again, an atom is not an ultimate unit, for it can be subdivided into protons, electrons and neutrons. These protons, electrons and neutrons are not ultimates either, for they can be subdivided into atomic particles and muons and quarks, and maybe these are the present ultimates in Science.
There are two kinds of truth, one is conventional truth, like our concept of water, (sammuti-sacca), and there is ultimate truth, like atomic particles (paramattha-sacca).
This book deals with ultimate realities in Buddhism. You cannot see an ultimate with the naked eye but only with the eye of wisdom, that can be called the "inner eye", for it is abstract. Similarly, you cannot see an atom or a molecule except with the "inner-eye".
Just pause for a moment to consider that the whole body of water in this universe, the lakes and rivers and oceans are not ultimates; they exist only in conventional language but they do not exist in terms of ultimates.
There are ultimates in Matter (materiality) and ultimates in Mind (mentality), and they are seen by the Buddhist inner eye as having or manifesting properties or qualities. But nothing exists apart form the ultimates.
Each of these ultimates has its individual essence, called sabhāva; sabhāva is also translated as intrinsic nature. One has to come to realize these individual essences by contemplation or meditation, both the individual essences of the ultimates in Matter and ultimates in Mind.
Mind and Matter can be likened to a Cripple and a Blind Man. The Cripple can’t walk, and the Blind Man can’t see. When the cripple is put on the shoulders of the blind man, the cripple can see and directs the blind man to go left and right.
Mind wants to eat but it cannot eat, and it is the body that eats, Mind wants to drink, but it cannot drink and it is the body that drinks. It is the Mind that controls and directs.
The categories of the ultimate realities in Buddhism are:
- Consciousness; (citta)
- Mind Constituents; (cetasikas)
- Materiality; (rūpa)
- Nirvana (Nibbāna).
3. Ultimates in Matter
The ultimates in Matter are 28, namely,
a. The 4 essential qualities or properties of
- hardness, or softness; (pathavī)
- cohesion or fluidity; (āpo)
- heat or lack of heat; and (tejo)
- motion or resistance to motion. (vāyo)
b. The 4 secondary qualities or properties of
- colour; (vanna)
- smell; (gandhā)
- taste; (rasa)
- nutriment (ojā)
These eight properties are inseparable and are called the Octad. They are explained more fully later, and also how to see each property or quality with the inner eye. The other 20 properties are listed in the Appendix.
We have mentioned about the ultimates in matter.
Matter is generated by :
- Karma (Kamma),
- Mind (citta),
- Temperature (utu),
- Nutriment (āhāra).
They are called:
- Karma-produced matter,
- Mind-produced matter,
- Temperature-produced matter, and
- Nutriment-produced matter.
Matter is being produced all the time by these 4 causes. At any instant, the karma-produced matter may be prominent, at other times mind-produced matter may be prominent or temperature-produced matter or nutriment-produced matter.
It must be remembered that these ultimate realities in matter are what can be visualised only by the inner eye. But the properties or qualities are reflected in the human body. When you are angry, even a child can sense that you are angry. Similarly for other emotions, your body will reflect your emotions and moods.
There are 5 sense-organs in the body, and if anyone is defective, for instance, if you are blind or deaf, people are not apt to accept you as a full human being. The inanimate body has no sentience.
- You see something. There arises visual consciousness.
- You hear something. There arises auditory consciousness.
- You smell something. There arises smell or olfactory consciousness.
- You taste something. There arises gustatory consciousness.
- You touch something. There arises tactile consciousness.
- You daydream or think of something, without the basis of any of the 5 senses. There arises ideational consciousness, or mind consciousness.
It is the function of the eye to see, the ear to hear, and the nose to smell, etc. The eye cannot hear or smell, and the ear cannot see or smell, and the nose cannot see or hear, etc.
Consciousness arises and disappears immediately. Only one consciousness can arise at a time and it immediately disappears for the next consciousness to arise.
5. Mental Constituents (cetasika)
Mind is consciousness plus something. Along with any consciousness, there arise certain mental constituents which are called cetasikas, like love, hate anger, disgust, disappointment, etc. These cetasikas are also translated as mental factors, mental concomitants, mental adjuncts, psychic factors, etc.
There are 52 cetasikas. When any consciousness arises, some appropriate cetasikas always arise. These cetasikas arise and disappear along with consciousness.
Some 7 cetasikas always arise with every unit of consciousness and they are called Universals. Some 6 others arise as a whole or in parts. The remainder are morally good or bad or neutral and they arise in different combinations.
When a consciousness disappears, all the cetasikas that had arisen along with it also disappear simultaneously.
Each cetasika has its own individual essence or sabhāva.
The 7 Univerals or Common Properties (sabbacitta): (in every consciousness)
- phassa (Contact)
- vedanā (Feeling)
- saññā (Perception)
- cetanā (Volition)
- ekaggatā (One-pointedness of Mind)
- jīvitindriya (Psychic Life)
- manasikāra (Attention)
Consciousness is extremely swift. Commentators say that in the time taken by the twinkling of an eye or a flash of lightning, there are more than a billion consciousnesses. We can paraphrase it by saying that a consciousness takes about a billionth of a second to function.
In a course-of-cognition, which is called a thought-process by certain authors, there are 17 thought moments. In each thought moment there are 3 phases or khanas, namely: arising, development and cessation.
A thought-process always follows a certain sequence of consciousnesses; it is explained in more detail in the next chapter.
We receive information of the outside world through 5 sense doors. There is also a sixth door, called the mind door, through which we perceive our own ideas; this is ideational consciousness. We use our imagination here.
So far as a material object is concerned, it exists for 17 thought moments till a new material object takes its place existing for 17 thought moments.
6. Conventional Truth (paññatti)
You were told the distinction between ultimate truth (paramattha) and conventional truth. This conventional or relative truth is also called paññatti, which means concepts, ideas, notions, names or terms.
A paññatti either makes known or is made known.
The different kinds are given different names. There are collective concepts, general concepts, derivative concepts, formal concepts, concepts relating to locality, time and space, concepts of nothingness, and continuity, and conceptualized afterimages (in Samatha concentration) and conventional signs.
Some may be interested in the Pāli names:
- Santhāna paññatti are concepts of form, like land, mountains, etc.
- Samūha paññatti are collective concepts, corresponding to a collection or group of things, like chariot, table.
- Disā paññatti refer to concepts of locality.
- Kāla paññatti refer to concepts of time.
- ākāsa paññatti refer to space, like caves, wells.
- Nimitta paññatti refer to conceptualized images, visualized images.
7. Ultimates in Mind and Matter
The paramatthas are:
- citta 1
- cetasikas 52
- rūpa or matter 28
- Nirvana 1
- ultimates 82
So all that is not a paramattha can be called a paññatti. This distinction between paramattha and paññatti is important A paramattha exists in reality. It is the bedrock of all existence. There are ultimates in matter and mind. They really exist, and what does not really exist is said not to exist. So such things as lakes, rivers, mountains, a human being, a person, a male, a female, do not exist in reality and are said not to exist. They are paññatti. It is called vohāra-sacca or spoken or relative truth. They are just words and ideas and names, and therefore conventional truth. They are not ultimate reality.
It was only under the Bodhi-Tree that the future Buddha came to understand the difference between paramattha and paññatti. Previously, his world was the world of paññatti; now it was the world of paramattha. Only on meditation on paramattha did he achieve Enlightment. Similarly you must meditate on paramattha in Vipassanā Meditation.
8. Subject and Object
In Abhidhamma there is always a subject and an object, and they arise together simultaneously. The subject is called arammanika and the object is arammana, also called alambana. The subject is "I" in paññatti language. The object can be anything at all. In terms of paramattha, the arammanika is citta, cetasika and rūpa. When we turn the mind inwards and think of the immediately past mind, the arammanika becomes the arammana.
Mind is consciousness plus a few appropriate cetasikas (mental constituents). So when we speak of Mind, we can also say Consciousness.
The objects taken by the different Minds are either one of the 5 sense objects, or an ideational object. Mind is also regarded in Buddhism as one of the senses, making 6 senses in all.
Consciousness can get more and more exalted till it reaches the very heights. How exalted can your consciousness become? It can’t get very exalted if it is bogged down by immoral or evil thoughts or what is called craving (tanhā) or selfish desire or thirst. You will hear more about this tanhā.
9. Three Spheres or Realms
In the universe, there are 3 Spheres or Realms, namely,
- Sphere or Realm of sensuous desires (kāmā vacara or kāma-loka).
- Sphere or Realm of Form (rūpāvacara or rūpa-loka)
- Sphere or Realm of the Formless (arūpāvacara or arūpa-loka).
In the sphere of sensuous desires, there are morally good and morally bad consciousnesses and the neutral. Unless you have transcended your bad thoughts and inclinations, your consciousness cannot reach the sphere of Form and the Formless, where the consciousnesses are all good.
It is the function of mental development (bhāvanā) to get your consciousness more and more exalted. Eventually there is Nirvana (Nibbāna) which can be attained if tanhā, or craving, is permanently eliminated.
By Vipassanā Meditation, by methods of acquiring the required Wisdom, Nirvana is attained. Buddhism is the only Religion that promises to reach its highest goal during life time, and you do not have to wait till after death.
10. Thirty-one Planes of Existence
In this Universe, we talk of the "human world", the "animal world", the "plant world", etc., but we do not think of them as different material worlds or different places.
There are 31 planes of existence. The human mind can descend to the lowest depths and also ascend to the highest regions. We reach the heights as the results of the states of concentration called jhāna.
Kāma-loka, the Realm of sensuous desire, is divided into 6 main planes according to their respective degrees of suffering. They are in ascending order:
- The plane of Purgatory (Niraya)
- The plane of animals (Tirachhāna-yoni)
- The plane of beings in whom the desire outweighs the possibilities of satisfaction (Petti-visaya)
- The plane of ghosts (Asura-kāya)
- The human plane (Manussā)
- The planes of Higher Beings within the sense world (Devā-loka)
The 4 lower planes are called the abodes of misery (Apāya-bhūmi).
The two higher ones, including the human plane, are the abodes of fortunate sense experience (kāma-sugati-bhūmi).
In the Realm of Pure Form (Rūpa-loka), the only senses are visual, aural (auditory), and the mental.
The intensity of consciousness, namely, in purity and in its light, increases. Here, we have Beings of radiant light, of limited or boundless aura, limited or infinite radiance, and Beings of the abodes of purity.
The description of the 4 planes of non-form (arūpa-loka) coincides with that of the 4 Stages of non-form consciousness.
The human Mind can reach all these planes, by practicing the methods for reaching them. The human Mind can attain all the jhānas as the result of which beings are reborn in all the planes.
11. Death and Rebirth
The death consciousness (cuti-citta) of this existence occurs at the end of the dying process. The next consciousness is the Rebirth-linking consciousness, called the patisandhi citta, which is the moment of conception in the next existence.
It is explained in the Patthana, the last book of the Abhidhamma, that when death ceases, the force of proximity-condition brings about the next consciousness which is the Rebirth-linking Consciousness. It is further explained that the force left behind produces results. Although an asynchronous faultless or faulty volition arises for one thought moment and then ceases, this is not the end of it. For a special force is left behind in the mind’s successive continuity so that at some time in the future, the appropriate result of that volition will be produced when the proper conditions are satisfied. It is due to the presence of this force that results appear. However, this force does not manifest itself like the mind with its nascent, static and terminating phases but is present like the latent tendencies. And just as the latter are not concepts, so also this special force of asynchronous kamma is not a concept. It is a special force of the ultimate realities. It may be called a germinal force.
The patisandhi consciousness lasts for one thought moment only and is then called the bhavangha which lasts for 16 thought moments impelled by its craving for existence and then sinks into the passive state of mind.
It is at the moment of conception that the foetus gets its tactile sense organ and the heart basis (hadaya-vatthu), and its gender, whether it is going to be a male or a female, and all these are produced by its past karma.
At the end of each course-of-cognition, the bhavangas arise and cease successively till the next course-of-cognition occurs. But consciousnesses are so swift that the bhavangas in between are not detectable. How many thought moments your bhavanga takes between courses of cognition depends on the stage of your mind development. It is the aim of mind development to reduce the time of the bhavanga, and the shorter the time, the more alert is your mind. It determines the acuteness of your brain.
This death consciousness takes as its object one of three things. At the last moment, the person thinks of something that has been most prominent in his mind. A murderer may get an idea that he is going to commit a crime, whereas a pious man may think he is worshipping the Buddha or listening to a sermon. This is known as kamma or the "vision of action".
Or he may see all article generally associated with his action. The murderer may see a knife whilst the pious man may see a yellow robe. This is vision as kamma-nimitta or the "vision of an article associated with the action".
Or he may get a vision of hellfire or a vision of the higher regions. This is known as gati-nimitta, or the "vision of the sign of destiny".
Your bhavanga of this existence has as its object what was the object of your last dying process.
After each course-of-cognition, the mind goes back to the bhavanga-state.
Life has been compared to a river, which has its beginning or source at birth and its mouth at death (cuti). It seems to have a constant form or identity but there is not a drop today of all the water that composed it yesterday.
This stream of life or being is also called the life-continuum by certain authors; it is the passive state of mind as in dreamless sleep.
The dividing line between Being and Thought is called the Mind Door (mano-dvāra); it is the threshold of consciousness. Below the threshold is subliminal consciousness and above the threshold is called supra-liminal consciousness.
One Indian author is of the opinion that a thought may be compared to a wave in the sea. The wave rises up from the surface and then sinks down again. Similarly, a thought rises up from the surface of the bhavanga and sinks back to its base; it sinks back between courses of cognition and after cognition is over before the start of any new course-of-cognition. However, this opinion is not universally accepted as it is said that the bhavanga is arrested before a thought commences.
For a vivid sense-object, there are 17 thought-moments in a course-of-cognition, after which bhavangas arise and cease successively for a few hundred thought-moments and then there arises the second course-of-cognition, followed by a few hundred more bhavangas.
Then there are thousands and thousands of more impressions, and course-of-cognitions, each followed at the end of each course by bhavangas, the duration of which are about 30,000 or 40,000 thought-moments. It is said that chief Disciple Sāriputta had such a great mind that there were only a few hundred bhavangas after each course-of-cognition.
It is the function of mind development to reduce the duration of the bhavangas between the course-of-cognitions. The quick mind has only a few thousand bhavangas after each course-of-cognition.
You cannot be born a human being, without some good karma in the sum total of previous existences. Nevertheless ignorance (avijjā) and craving (tanhā), of which you will hear a lot later, are pulling, like gravity, to bad deeds, to blindness of moral vision. Your education during all your childhood years, including your training, makes you a better and better boy changing your blindness to a better vision. The time will come when you will be more good than bad. Or, if you cannot profit from your education, you will be predominately bad.
12. The Subjective Mind
All verbal and physical actions are motivated by the mind. If you raise your hand or you sit down or you walk, it is all mind-motivated action.
It is well known that old people cannot hear certain sounds that are audible to younger people. And humans cannot hear certain sounds heard by animals. It does not mean, however, that these sounds do not exist.
Moreover, if the Mind is absorbed in something else and attention is not paid to these sounds, the Mind does not hear these sounds. In these cases, the sounds do not exist for the Mind.
Only when the Mind takes these sounds as objects can a person hear them, and they exist for the Mind.
Things may exist in the world but they are not known to the Mind, if they are not objects of the Mind.
However, the Mind cannot take everything as objects at one and the same time. The Mind can take as an object only one thing at any one time, and the rest of the world is non-existent so far as the Mind is concerned.
The Minds that have already disappeared are no more existent, and the Minds that are not yet born are still non-existent. Mind Consciousness exists at the present moment only, though the object it takes can be of the past, present or future, real or imaginary.
13. Noble Ones
There are 4 types of individuals, called the Noble Ones, who are near the Goal;
- one "who has entered the stream" (sotāpanna),
- the "once-returner" (sakadāgāmī),
- the "non-returner" (anāgāmī),
- the "Holy One" (arahat), who has realised the highest goal.
A definition of these Noble Ones is found in the fourth book of the Abhidhamma-Pitaka (Puggala-Paññatti 26-27):
- He who has overcome the three fetters; such a man is called "one who has entered the stream" (sotāpanna).
- He in whom sensual desire and anger are utterly reduced; such a man is called "once-returner" (sakadāgāmī).
- He who has completely overcome sensual desire and anger; such a man is called "non-returner" (anāgāmī).
- He who has completely overcome the craving or the world of Pure Form or of Non-Form as well as pride, restlessness, and ignorance; such a man is called a "Holy One" (arahat).
Of the ten fetters (samyojana) by which the ordinary human being (puthujjana) is bound to the world, the "stream winner" has overcome the first three:
- the belief in a permanent personality (sakkāya-ditthi)
- doubt (or scepticism) (vicikicchā)
- clinging to rules and rituals (sīlabbata-parāmāsa)
The remaining seven fetters are:
- sensual desire (kāma-rāga)
- aversion or anger (patigha)
- craving for existence in the world of Pure Form (rūpa-rāga)
- craving for existence in the world of Non-Form (arūpa-rāga)
- pride (māna)
- restlessness (uddhacca)
- ignorance, delusion (avijjā)
The first five are called the lower fetters. The five higher fetters are only overcome by the arahat.
Here is a short summary:
Ariya-Puggala Samyojana (?)
- sotāpanna 1-3
- sakadāgāmī 1-3; 4 and 5 partly
- anāgāmī 1-5
- arahat 1-10
14. Mundane and Supramundane Wisdom.
The whole world is using mundane or paññatti wisdom. All Western philosophers are using mundane, paññatti wisdom.
But there is another wisdom, called the Supramundane Wisdom. This Book will explain how you become a Noble One.
Say, you meet a pretty girl who wants to come and live with you. On making inquiries, you learn that she has a venereal disease, and that she tells lies and she is a habitual thief. You use paññatti wisdom to decide that she will cause you suffering, and you turn down the proposition.
The other Wisdom is called Vipassanā Wisdom leading to Magga Wisdom, which leads to Nirvana, our final goal. It is also called Lokuttara Wisdom.