PATH TO NIBBâNA

By

Dikwelle Mahinda Thera

PREFACE

We have many scholars world-wide who interpret, define, describe elaborate and analyse many aspects of the Buddhist teaching in very many different ways. But only a few seem to attempt to explain fully what we should do for the realisation of Nibbàna, the final goal, and as to what the Four Noble Truths are for those who wish to be liberated from this whole mass of suffering. This responsibility of realising these Four Noble Truths is clearly and exhaustively reflected in terms of four steps, such as things to be understood, abandoned,

Realised and in this booklet I have made an effort to analyse and present to the reader the essence of the first discourse which the Blessed One delivered to a group of five monks in the deer park of Benares. This booklet embodies a rare exposition to educate both the eastern and western readers on Buddhism for what it really is.

I cordially suggest that it would be immensely beneficial even for the venerable monks to read it. I wish to express my gratitude to Ven. Kendagolle Sumanaransi Thera, BA Hons. MA Diploma In Education Lecturer, Teachers Training College, Dambadeniya, in the Kurunegala District who volunteered to write a preface, after reading this booklet on a casual visit to the Vajiràràma monastery.

Author

Dated 11th May, 1998.

PATH TO NIBBâNA

In order to realise this conceptualised idea there are Four Noble Truths to be realised by a Buddhist as preached in the first discourse of Lord Buddha.

The Noble Truth of suffering which is to be fully understood.

The Noble Truth of the Course of suffering which is to be abandoned.

The Noble Truth of the Cessation of suffering which is to be self realised.

The Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of suffering which is to be

Developed through the two forms of meditation serenity (Samatha) and Insight (Vipassanà)

The Noble Truth of suffering in essence is the five focuses of the grasping mind, which is again formed into mind and matter (Nàma, råpa). There are also other forms of sufferings such as birth, decay, disease, death, sorrow lamentation, pain, grief and despair all related to the five focuses of the grasping mind.

The matter is divided into three parts :

The dead body and the dead tree are void of life. Although there are presented in two

Different appearances, in reality, they are one in terms of the eight basic elements such as the earth, (pañhavã) water (àpo) fire (tejo) wind(vayo), colour (varna), smell (gandha), taste (rasa) and sap (oja).

The form with body but without mind, flora and fauna, such as trees and creepers which grow and perish. They also are devoid of mind and feelings. However, they consist of the nine elements such as earth, water, fire, wind, colour, smell taste and nutrient and the faculty of life.

The form having both body and mind such as all sentient beings, which have a consciousness. In them there are the eight basic elements mentioned above together with faculty of life and the consciousness or the mind. The fact that they have a mind they do possess the four postures of standing walking sitting and lying down.

This mind and body said earlier, are impermanent due to their constant change with the natural process of arising and ceasing, and also because of the state of flux they do not result in any annhilistic situation. This impermanent non-annhilistic stream of consciousness and the body can be seen in eleven ways such as past, present, future, internal and external, subtle and gross, near and far away. All these forms are not I, me or mine. Thus, they are to be seen as they really are, or in the light of true wisdom. That is, in the way of this is not mine. I am not this and this is not myself.

Now let us turn towards the aggregates of the mind (which includes feeling, perception mental formations and sense consciousness). This is defined as consciousness or mind. There are four mental factors related to the aggregate of the mind, namely, feeling (vedanà), perception (sa中à), mental formations (saïkhàrà) and sense consciousness (vi中àõa). Here the consciousness is the main factor and the other three are sub-factors. The mind is comparable to water and the mental factors to bubbles. When we boil water, in a kettle, the water starts bubbling and they come up, remain for a moment and disappear back into the water. In other works, it is liable to disappearance. Likewise, the mental factors too, are subjected to these three stages of arising (uppàda), existence (ñhiti) and ceasing (bhaïga).

The arising and ceasing of these mental factors are 17 times faster than that of the form. Minor moments of thoughts have the above three stages of arising, existence and ceasing, (uppàda, ñhiti, bhaïga) from moment to moment and the life span of the forms are calculated to be 17 great moments of thoughts. This mind has to be perceived in the light of true wisdom, in the manner, this is not mine. I am not this and this is not myself.

The noble truth of the cause of suffering which is to be abandoned. The craving which causes suffering and birth incessantly, should be abandoned (pahàtabba). This craving is divided into three factors namely, the craving for sensual pleasures (kàma taõhà) craving for becoming (bhava taõhà) and craving for non-becoming (vibhava taõhà).

The view of eternalism which is based on a belief of a permanent soul and the annihilistic view based on the theory of no rebirth after death do belong to the second and third cravings. All the sixty two views (conceptions) which prevailed in the period of the Lord Buddha, go into these two major views of eternalism and annihilism. The abandonment of the three fold craving is done through the practice of morality (sãla), concentration (samàdhi) and wisdom (pa中à). These three aspects deal with the eradication of the defilements in three levels, namely: temporal (tadaïgappahàna), suppressive (vikkhambhanappahàna) and destructive (samucchedappadhana).

Cutting down a branch of a tree is like the abandonment in the temporal level. The cutting of the trunk is like the suppressive level and uprooting the tree is like the complete abandonment in the destructive level. When uprooted there is no possibility whatsoever for any further growth. Thus, there is no possibility of yielding fruits.

Yathà'pi måle anupàddave daëhe
Chinno'pi rukkho punar'eva ruhàti
Evam'pi taõhanusaye anuhate
Nibbattati dukkha midaü punappunaü. Dhammapada Verse No. 338.

Just as a tree with roots unharmed and firm, though hewn down, sprouts again, even so while latent, craving is not rooted out. This sorrow springs up again and again. Translation by the most Ven. Narada Mahà Thera when `the main root is connected with the soil the tree can grow even if the trunk is cut down. Likewise, when the tree of craving is not uprooted, it grows again and again and create suffering thereby'.

3. The cessation of suffering (Nibbàna) is the factor that is to be realised. Nibbàna something to be self-realised. It is two fold in characters, one in this life itself, and the other after the end of this life (not something in the next life, dying not to be reborn).

The realisation of Nibbàna (attainment of full enlightenment, cessation of all defilements associated from the very beginning of the life), here in this life is the ending of the grasping of the five aggregates (pa勺'upàdànakkhandhà) so it is said in the discourse on Jewels (Ratana Sutra) states:

ßTheir past Kamma is extinguished. There new Kamma no more arises. Their minds are not attached to a future birth. The energy of the growing of the seed is extinguished. Their desires grow not. Those wise ones go oust even as this lamp is extinguished. Verily, in the Sangha is this Jewel. By this truth may there be happiness.û Verse No. 14.

After attainment of full Enlightenment one neither produces skilful actions nor does he produce unskilful ones. They are just mere actions and are not capable of producing any results coming out of it. As there are no conditions for any results after he is death, there is no possibility for re-becoming or another conception in any realm of existence whatsoever.

The way leading to the cessation of suffering that which is to be developed. The path to be practised is the well-known Noble Eightfold Path, namely:

Right understanding (Sammà Diññhi), Right Thought (Sammà Saïkappa), Right Speech (Sammà Vàcà), Right Action, (Sammà Kammanta), Right Livelihood (Sammà âjiva), Right Effort (Sammà Vàyàma), Right Mindfulness (Sammà Sati), Right Concentration (Sammà Samàdhi). This Noble Eightfold Path can comprised into three factors.

Sãla

Morality is to be developed (Sãlaü bhavetabbaü)

Samàdhi

Concentration is to be developed (Samàdhi bhavetabbaü)

Pa中a

Wisdom to be developed (Pa中à bhavetabbaü)

Sãla and Samàdhi

belong to the Samatha Bhàvanà (Serenity meditation).

Pa中a

belongs to the Vipassanà Bhàvanà (Insight meditation).

In the context of Abhidhamma they are as follows :

Sãla

Morality (Aññha Kàmavàcàra Cittàni) Eight types of wholesome

Consciousness in the realm of sensual world.

Samàdhi

Concentration (Attha Samàpattiyo) Eight absorpitions of Consciousness

(Jhànas);

Pa中a

Wisdom (Attha Lokuttara Citiàni) Eight supramundane consciousness Of Path and Fruit.

The eight wholesome consciousness in the realm of Sensual Pleasures can overcome the twelve unwholesome consciousness in the level of overcoming by opposites, which in the Buddhist terminology is called `tadaïgappahàna'. When five precepts are observed another five unwholesome factors too are shunned. The light removes darkness. When the light goes away the darkness again sets in. Likewise, when the mind is occupied with wholesome thoughts, the unwholesome thoughts fade away and when the unwholesome thoughts fade away the wholesome thoughts again arises in the mind. The morality can only cut the branches of the tree of craving. They grow again as the roots and the trunk are still there.

Samàdhi - Concentration of the eight meditative absorptions (Jhànas) overpower the five hindrances (pa勺anãvaraõà) in the level of suppressions (vikkhambhanappahàna). It can be compared to cutting the trunk of the tree of craving. The growth is suspended, for a limited period of time. It is again just like a pot on water in a well whereby the algae cannot reach it as long as it is there.

Pa中a - Wisdom or the eight supramundane consciousnesses extirpates the ten fetters (dasa samyojanà) completely, namely:

(Sakkàyadiññhi - self delusion regarding the five aggregates, Vicikicchà - sceptical doubt, Silabbata paramasà - adherence to (wrongful) rites and ceremonies, Kàmaràgà - Sense desire, Pañigha - ill-will, Råparàgà - attachment to the realms of form, Aråparàgà - attachment to the formless realms, Màna - conceit, Uddhacca - restlessness, and Avijjà - ignorance).

This is compared to the uprooting of the tree so that it cannot grow anymore. Just as there is no more growth of a tree fully uprooted there is no more any re-becoming whatsoever of the five focuses of the grasping mind, (pa勺'upàdànakkhandhà). Just as when causes are removed the results are no more, there is no more birth, no any further existence.

ßNeither self made the puppet is, not yet
By other wrought is this ill-plighted this
By reason of a cause it come to be
By rupture of a cause it dies away.û

(Kindred Sayings Vol. I - 134)

What the above implies is that this reflection (Pañibimbha) is composed of the five aggregates, the whole mass of suffering is neither created by oneself nor by another. It is originated with a cause with the absence of cause it comes to its own cessation.

Why is then the need to perform wholesome actions? All actions whether they are good or bad, all of them eventually lead to the continuation of existences in the cycle of births and deaths. Due to unwholesome actions one is born into this human state of existence on a groundless or a causeless base without wealth, healthy and wisdom or in the hell, where untold suffering is to be experienced. Therefore, evil has to be abandoned. Although wholesome actions also lead to the continuation of repeated births and deaths and conducive to the achievement of the position of a monarch, but the purpose is not to lengthen the samsaric journey to be born a person until being meditative and capable of having a threefold conception of human birth (tihetåka pañisandhi). A boy goes to school to study, pass examinations and to become a useful citizen for the country, Nation and religions. Once this is done he has no need to go back to school to study. A person having a birth consisting of the threefold cause is able to realise `Nibbàna' by developing the twofold mediations, serenity and insight - ßSamathaû and ßVipassanàû here in this very life. If during his lifetime a Buddha is born, he is able to get an opportunity for good companionship, and a chance to hear the teaching, etc. Persons who are groundless or connected with two causes are even incapable of attaining meditative absorptions (jhàna). Therefore, he has to practise and master the thoughts in the realm of sensual pleasures (Kàmavàcàra cittàni) which have to be preceded by the meditative thoughts, (jhànà), and the supramundane thoughts (Lokuttara cittàni). Then after attaining the thoughts of the supramundane stage, one can attain the stage of neither accumulation of wholesome actions nor the unwholesome actions, where only mere action which could produce no results which in the Buddhist termiology are called ßKiriya cittàniû - (neutral consciousness). In other words, first of all, one should establish oneself very well in morality (sãla), where the defilements are subdued only in momentary level.

Being well grounded in morality one should develop the tranquillity meditation (samatha bhàvanà). The result is the attainment of concentration, Samàdhi, one pointedness of the mind ßCitta ekaggatà.û

The thoughts in this stage are called the thoughts of meditative absorptions ßjhàna citta.û These thoughts subdue the five hindrances (pa勺a nãvaraõà), craving for sensual pleasures (Kàmacchanda), ill-will (Vyàpada), sloth and torpor (thina middha), restlessness and worry (uddhacca kukkucca) and the sceptical doubt (vicikicchà) in a temporal level (vikkhambhanappahàna).

Being well grounded in concentration one has to develop insight meditation (vipassanà bhàvanà). By developing this, there arise the consciousness of the supramundane stage (Lokuattara cittàni) and the four stages of sainthood: stream winning (sotapanna) once returning (kàdàgàmi) non-returning (anàgàmã) and full Enlightenment (arahant). Also the ten fetters are extirpated in the destructive level (samucchedappadhàna), wisdom has arisen (pa中a udapàdi), arisen knowledge (àõaü udapàdi), arisen light (àloka udapàdi). At this stage one is full Enlightened. He does not accumulate any wholesome or unwholesome actions that can produce results, (vipàka kamma).

Thus the attainment of full Enlightenment is made and the supra-mundane thoughts are arisen. This is the attainment of Nibbàna here in the very life. This is called the attainment of Nibbàna with the five aggregates (pa勺akkhandhà) remaining, until death (sopadisesa parinibbàna). Once vipàka kamma from the very birth until the attainment of the full Enlightenment is warded off (as said in the discourse on jewels Ratana sutta verse No. 14). Then at the end of life (maraõaü) his body and mind die (not to be born again). So there is no new becoming since the five aggregates of grasping is abandoned.

The causes for a renewed becoming (taõhà) is done away with. The cause of suffering and kamma and re-becoming (punabbhavaü) is done away with. This is Nibbàna. Therefore the Buddha said that rebirth does not apply to a fully Enlightened one (in terms of being born, not born, neither born nor reborn, etc).

There cannot be a fire when there is no firewood. With the absence of firewood the fire disappears. It is not a relevant question to ask as to where the fire went. Same with the question as to what happens to a mind of a fully Enlightened One after his death. So he is in a state of non-becoming.

Study and Practice

By studying one gathers audio visual and intellectual knowledge. It is a mundane thing. Through practice one acquires the wisdom pa中à, the empirical knowledge. That is to say that when one attains the full Enlightenment, he realize the four noble truth with direct experience. Some do mere study and do not make any effort to practise. Some do more practice than study. But we need both for instance, there are two students. Both have a car. One person known the mechanism or theory but he cannot drive because he does not practice. The other student knows how to drive but does not know the mechanism or theory of the car, because he did not study. Therefore, he is unable to repair his vehicle when it breaks down. Hence, the theory and practice are very essential to realise NIBBâNA.

May are beings be happy