A Heart Released

The Teachings of Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Thera

by Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Thera | 1995 | 9,299 words

Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu Copyright © 1995 Metta Forest Monastery PO Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082 For free distribution only. You may reprint this work for free distribution. You may re-format and redistribute this work for use on computers and computer networks provided that you charge no fees for its distribution or us...

Teaching 16 - The Significance Of The First Sermon

The Middle Sermon, And The Final Sermon

The sermons delivered by the Lord Buddha at three points in his career have a great significance to which Buddhists should give special thought and consideration.

A. At the beginning of the Buddhas career he delivered a sermon to the five brethren at the forest in the Deer Park at Isipatana near Benares. This was his first sermon, called the Wheel of Dhamma. He started with the two extremes that those who have gone forth from the household life should not indulge in, saying,

dveme bhikkhave anta pabbajitena na sevitabba:

Monks, there are these two extremes that those who have gone forth from the household life should not pursue: indulgence in sensual pleasure and indulgence in self affliction. To explain: Indulgence in sensual pleasure lies on the side of love; indulgence in self affliction, on the side of hate. Both sides are causes of suffering and stress. When we practice self purification and yet fall into either of these two sides, we cant be said to have entered the middle way, for when we are making a persistent effort to practice and the mind becomes fully calm and relaxed, we are pleased; when the mind thinks and becomes restless and distracted, we are displeased. Being pleased is indulgence in pleasure; being displeased, indulgence in self affliction. Being pleased is passion, being displeased is aversion, and not being wise to passion and aversion is delusion.

Whoever makes an effort to develop persistence in concentration has to start out by running into these two extremes. If we run into these extremes, we are classed as wrong, but it is only normal that we be wrong before we can be right. Even the Buddha, before his Awakening, was completely wrong in just the same way. Even his two foremost disciples were wrong -- and held pernicious doctrines to boot. All the other disciples started out wrong from the beginning as well. But when the Buddha came to follow the middle way while meditating under the shade of the Bodhi tree, after having gained the first two knowledges -- remembrance of previous lifetimes and knowledge of the death and rebirth of living beings -- in the first two watches of the night, he gained the third knowledge -- knowledge of the ending of mental effluents -- in the watch toward dawn. This was when he found the genuine middle way, releasing his mind from the error of the two extremes. Released from the clan, class, abodes, lineage, and legacy of convention and supposing, he attained the clan, class, abode, lineage, and legacy of the Noble Ones. The Noble Disciples came to know following the Buddha, acting correctly in line with the knowledge of the ending of mental effluents, and gained release from error just as he had.

As for us as meditators, in the very beginning it is only normal that we will have to be wrong. As long as we let ourselves be pleased and displeased in the development of merit and wisdom, we fall under the sway of the ways of the world (lokadhamma), and when we are under the sway of the ways of the world, we are shaken by pleasure and displeasure. This is called being shaken back and forth.

uppanno kho me:

Where do the ways of the world arise? In ourselves. The ways of the world have eight factors, and the path that cures them has eight as well. The eightfold path is the cure for the eight ways of the world. Thus the Buddha taught the middle way as the cure for the two extremes.

Once we have cured ourselves of the two extremes, we enter the noble path, cutting across the currents of the world, making the mind cago patinissaggo mutti analayo -- relinquish, release, and rest easy.

To summarize: As long as the two extremes still exist in your heart, you are not on the right track. But when your heart gains release from the two extremes, you become unshakable: free from impurities and safe from the flood. This is why the meaning of the Wheel of Dhamma is very significant. When the Buddha explained the Wheel of Dhamma, it caused the elements of the world to tremble. And when the message is so significant, how could they help but tremble? The elements of the world are nothing else but this very body of ours. Our body is composed of the worlds elements and it trembles because the mind sees into something it has never seen before. The fact that the mind is released from the two extremes is what causes the elements of the world to tremble. They tremble because the mind is not coming back to give rise to them ever again.

B. At the mid point of the Buddhas career he delivered the Patimokkha Exhortation to an assembly of 1,250 arahants at the Squirrels Feeding Grounds in the Royal Bamboo Grove near Rajagaha. One of the important points was,

adhicitte ca ayogo etam buddhana sasanam:

Heighten the mind: That is the teaching of the Buddhas. To heighten the mind, we have to be calm and at peace.

iccha lobha samapanno samano kim bhavissati:

When we are endowed with desire -- greedy, struggling, and deluded -- how can we be calm and at peace? We need to practice by following the discipline as our starting point and by developing our meditation theme, beginning with walking and sitting meditation. We must work at our contemplation of the great frames of reference and develop it repeatedly, starting by keeping track of the body as our frame of reference. At first we should contemplate the parts of the body by means of parikamma savana, i.e., by means of conjecture -- that this part is like that, and that is like this -- because if we do this mindfully, with self awareness, the mind wont wander far from the body and will settle down easily. When we practice parikamma savana repeatedly, an uggaha nimitta will arise. We should then master that stage until we reach patibhaga, analyzing the vision into its parts. When we master patibhaga fully, it will turn into insight meditation. We then develop insight meditation to its highest degree so that the mind will reach thitibhutam, as discussed in the strategies of clear insight. This is what is meant by practice. When we have practiced,


We will cross over and beyond. It is because of the practices that we have done to completion that we will cross over and beyond -- i.e., beyond the world. This is what is meant by the transcendent dhammas.


We will gain relief from bondage.

Thus the message of the middle sermon is significant because it aims at release.

C. At the end of his career, when he was about to enter total nibbana, the Buddha delivered his final sermon in the midst of a gathering of Noble Disciples in the Royal Sala Grove of the Mallian gentry of Kusinara, saying, handadani amantayami vo bhikkhave, pativediyami vo bhikkhave, khaya vaya dhamma sankhara, appamadena sampadetha: I say to you, monks, do not be complacent. Contemplate fashionings that arise and then decay. When you contemplate in this manner, you will penetrate completely. That was all he said and he never said anything further. This is thus said to be his final sermon.

To explain the meaning: Where do fashionings arise? What are fashionings? Fashionings arise in our own minds. They are an effect or condition of the mind that gives rise to all supposings. These fashionings are the culprits that suppose and formulate everything in the world. Actually, the things of the world -- in their elementary properties as phenomena -- are simply the way they are. Earth, trees, mountains, sky, and sunshine dont say that they are anything at all. Even the human body, which is also composed of the worlds elements, doesnt say that it is this or that. Mental fashioning is the culprit that styles these things as being this or that -- and we fall for what it says as being true, holding that all these things are ours or ourselves. Passion, aversion, and delusion thus arise, causing the primal mind to stray deludedly after birth, aging, illness, and death, circling around endlessly through innumerable states of becoming and birth -- all through the instigation of mental fashioning.

This is why the Buddha taught us to contemplate mental fashionings as inconstant and stressful:

sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha.

We keep at this until we see them with full and clear comprehension -- which arises as the fruit of having earlier developed patibhaga -- to the point where the mind enters the bhavanga, its underlying state. When the current of the bhavanga disappears, a genuinely intuitive understanding will arise right at the heart: Thats just how they are -- inconstant and stressful. When we master this and see it clearly and distinctly, we will then be wise to mental fashionings. Mental fashionings will no longer be able to fashion the mind into becoming aroused ever again, as stated in the verse,

akuppam sabba dhammesu neyyadhamma pavessanto:

When mental fashioning can no longer fashion the mind, the mind doesnt become aroused. It is wise to all knowable dhammas,

- santo:

and thus calm and at peace, reaching release.

The words of this final sermon are truly significant. They can make the person who contemplates them awaken to the ultimate degree -- which is why the Buddha stopped speaking and said no more.

The sermons given at these three points in the Buddhas career have a significance over and beyond that of any other he ever gave. The first sermon aims at release, the middle sermon aims at release, the final sermon aims at release. In this way all three of them without exception aim at nothing but release.

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