Buddhism class lecture by late Mr Richard Jones
We have looked at the universal nature of dukkha. Buddhism does not duck the issue of suffering, it gives it to you straight. There are 3 kinds of dukkha; it is part of fabric of human existence; we are all in same boat. Dukkha is a general unsatisfactoriness, wanting to be somewhere or something other than what we already are. It is all right to translate this as "Suffering" provided we realise this is just code. There are the 5 aggregates, likened to a lump of foam (body), bubble (feeling), mirage (perception), plantain trunk (mental formations), illusion/conjurer's trick (consciousness). Its immediate cause is tanha, of which there are 3 kinds, which are insatiable. The Buddha said that even if money were to fall from the skies like rain, man's sensual desires would not be satisfied. (Dhp.186) Even if one could magically transform one single mountain into two mountains of solid gold, it would still not provide complete and lasting satisfaction of one person's wants. (S.I.117)
If something has a cause, it is logical to reason that if the cause is removed, then its effect will also disappear. So if we wish to remove dukkha, then we must start by removing its cause, tanha. In his first sermon, the Buddha said that the noble truth concerning the cessation of dukkha is, "The complete cessation, giving up, abandonment of that craving, complete release from that craving and complete detachment from it." (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) So in the third Noble Truth the Buddha gives us the very encouraging news that there is an end to dukkha. He called this state [in Pali] Nibbana (you may have heard the Sanskrit term Nirvana). What is Nibbana?
The word nibbana was already in existence before the time of the Buddha and was used to denote a state of ultimate happiness, but the Buddha gave new meaning to the term. Various English words have been used to describe this state: cessation, liberation, freedom, emancipation. A literal meaning of the word is NIR - no, VANA - craving, i.e. the end of craving. So nibbana is a state beyond craving, beyond the desire for sensual pleasures, the desire for becoming, and the desire for non-becoming. Beyond all dualistic concepts. This is not an easy state for us to describe as it is completely beyond our own experience and it is beyond the limited nature of our language. We are trying to use finite words to describe an infinite state. Imagine trying to describe the experience of colour to someone who has been blind since birth, or the taste of sugar to someone who has never tasted it. He just does not have the necessary faculties to understand what you are talking about. It is no good to tell someone to read a book on the chemistry of sugar in order to get the taste.
There is a story concerning a turtle and a fish. After the turtle had been for a walk on the land, he returned to the lake where the fish lived. The turtle tried to describe to the fish what it was like to walk on the land, but the fish had never been on the land and he could not understand what the turtle was talking about. He could see things only in terms of his own experience. These are some of the questions which the fish put to the turtle. The fish asked the turtle if the land was wet, whether it was fresh and cool, if light could shine through it, if it were soft and could be swum through, if it flowed in streams, if it rose up into waves. When the turtle replied in the negative to all these questions, the fish concluded that the land must be nothing. The difficulty was that not only was the fish unable to understand what the turtle was describing, the turtle was also unable to describe his experience in terms that the fish could understand. Similarly, we are trying to use the limited nature of our language to describe a state which is beyond our experience. So even someone who has experienced nibbana cannot describe this to other people. In the Lankavatara Sutta it is said that ignorant people get stuck in words like an elephant in the mud. Another analogy is of a finger pointing at the moon; do not confuse the finger with the moon.
There is a story of some blind men who were brought into the presence of an elephant. They were asked to touch it and identify what the object was. Some said a fan, a pot, a ploughshare, a column, a broom. Each claimed he was in the right, so disputes arise, although each has only a partial awareness of reality. For this reason, nibbana has often been described in negative terms. The nature of our language allows us to say more easily what nibbana is not, rather than what it is. Some of the terms used to describe nibbana are:-
Tanhakkhaya (extinction of tanha)
Viraga (absence of desire)
Nibbana is a state of moral perfection - the elimination of lobha, dosa, moha, and tanha. One who has attained nibbana is incapable of performing an immoral action, transcending the ego. Asavakhaya. [asavakkhaya nana (the knowledge of the eradication of the corruptions). There are four asavas, the defilement of sense desires (kama), becoming (bhava), wrong view (ditthi) and ignorance (avijja)] The Buddha attained this in the 3rd part of the night on which he attained enlightenment.
Perhaps the best term is Asamkhata, which means uncompounded or unconditioned (literally, not formed). Buddhists are very keen on the idea of conditioning or causation. Everything in the conventional world arises because of conditions; when those conditions change, so does the phenomenon itself change. "Impermanent are all conditioned things". However, nibbana is an unconditioned state, it is not the result of anything. There may be a path leading to a mountain, but the mountain is not the result of this path. You may see a light but the light is not the result of your eyesight. Because nibbana is unconditioned, it is permanent. It is not made of something, and does not depend on anything. This is a very important point.
The Buddha said, "What is the absolute (asamkhata)? It is the extinction of desire (ragakkhaya), the extinction of hatred (dosakkhaya), the extinction of delusion (mohakkhaya). This is called the absolute." (Samyutta Nikaya I, p.136)
"Enraptured with lust (raga), enraged with anger (dosa), blinded by delusion (moha), overwhelmed, with mind ensnared, man aims at his own ruin, at the ruin of others, at the ruin of both, and he experiences mental pain and grief. But if lust, anger and delusion are given up, man aims neither at his own ruin, nor at the ruin of others, nor at the ruin of both, and he experiences no mental pain and grief. Thus is nibbana visible in this life, immediate, inviting, attractive, and comprehensible to the wise."(Anguttara Nikaya III, 55) This deals with the qualities of the dhamma: Sanditthiko: relating to the present, not led on with promises about a future life, benefits experienced in this life. Akaliko: not involving time, produces immediate results, four stages of sainthood - path and fruits. Ehipassiko: inviting investigation, no blind faith or speculation. (see the Kalama sutta). opaneyyiko: leading onward to nibbana, all the teachings lead to this goal. Paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi'ti: to be comprehended by everyone for himself, each of us must practise the dhamma for him/herself. "You yourselves must make the effort; Buddhas are only teachers". No one can give nibbana to us; each of us must realise it for him or herself.
He also said, "There is the unborn, ungrown, and unconditioned. Were there not the unborn, ungrown and unconditioned, there would be no escape for the born, grown and conditioned. Since there is the unborn, ungrown and unconditioned, so there is escape for the born, grown and conditioned." (Udana p.129) In another passage in the same text, we read, "Here the four elements of solidity, fluidity, heat and motion have no place; the notions of length and breadth, the subtle and the gross, good and evil, name and form are altogether destroyed; neither this world nor the other, nor coming, going or standing, neither death nor birth, nor sense-objects are to be found." (Udana p.128)
This does not mean, however, that nibbana is a negative state. It is not a state of annihilation. The Buddha said, "Nibbana is the highest happiness". Some of the positive terms used to describe nibbana are:-
Moksha (release), siva (auspicious, good), khema (safety), suddhi (purity), dipa (island), sarana (refuge), tana (protection), para (opposite shore, the other side), santi (peace). Another word for nibbana is Truth or Freedom. It is perfect, ultimate Truth. This is not Buddhist truth as against Christian or Muslim truth. These are not negative terms. The realisation of truth is to see things as they really are (yathabhutam) and this is nibbana. It is free from all dualistic conceptions, such happiness/unhappiness, or positive/negative. When we say Nibbana is happiness, we do not mean happiness in the conventional sense. Happiness and unhappiness are relative concepts - one cannot exist without the other; like light and dark, they can be defined only in relation to each other.
Sometimes Nibbana is described as cool; this is because the Buddha lived in a hot country. Had he lived in a cold country, then Nibbana might have been described as warm. But it is also true that we talk about anger and hatred making us hot. Nibbana is the elimination of these unwholesome states and can therefore be said to be cool.
Ordinarily, we think of happiness and unhappiness as things which come through the senses (including mind which in Buddhism is considered as a sixth sense), but nibbana is not dependent upon the senses, it is beyond these dualistic concepts. Neither can it be comprehended by intellectual activity because it is beyond the scope of logic. This is not a metaphysical teaching, to be understood on an intellectual level, merely to be studied, for learned men to write complicated books about. It is not a question of gaining knowledge, like obtaining enough knowledge to gain an "A" level in nibbana. It is a question of realisation or understanding. In the Dhammacakkasutta the Buddha says nibbana is to be "realised". This realisation can only come through reflection; it is not a matter of belief. You cannot realise nibbana by forcing yourself to believe something or by any other act of will. As long as there is the desire to see it, you will not see it.
We can make a distinction between two kinds of desire or wanting. The first kind is tanha. Tanha is directed towards feeling, especially pleasant feeling; it leads to the seeking of objects which pander to self interest and it is supported and nourished by ignorance. The second kind is known as chanda. Chanda is directed towards benefit; it leads to effort and action, and is founded on intelligent reflection (yoniso-manasikara), it is based on wisdom, not ignorance. We can say that one aspect of the spiritual life is to replace tanha with chanda. As tanha is replaced by chanda, conflict of interests becomes a harmony of interests; a truly beneficial life is possible only when the individual, society and the environment serve each other.
It is matter of learning to let go of desires, all desires, even the desire to become a perfect person and to attain nibbana. Instead of seeking to become a perfect person, we let go of the desire. It is a state which can be neither felt nor experienced. It is beyond both feeling and sensation. In fact one of the Buddha's chief disciples, Venerable Sariputta, was asked what happiness can there be if one is beyond feeling and sensation. He said that the very fact that there is nothing to be felt is indeed happiness. If there is anything to be felt, then this experience must be subject to change and it cannot, therefore, be true happiness. The mind in its ordinary state cannot grasp this because it seeks something tangible to be grasped through the senses. This sensual happiness is only momentary and is vulnerable to change. There is a difference between cessation and annihilation. Annihilation is an act of destruction, getting rid of something, but cessation is a natural bringing to an end, a process of letting go.
There are two aspects or elements of nibbana. This is not to say that there are two types of nibbana; there is only one nibbana but its aspect differs according to whether one is still alive or not:-
1. Saupadisesa nibbana (or kilesa parinibbana) This is the full extinction of all defilements while we are still alive. The destruction of these defilements is permanent. Nibbana is not something to be attained after we die. In some religions, the highest goal (heaven) is reached only after death. In Buddhism, however, the state of nibbana can be attained only by someone who is still alive. The Buddha attained this state at the age of 35, and by following his teachings many thousands of people have attained this state too. This has happened not only during the time of the Buddha himself, but also during the following centuries, right up to the present day. Someone who has attained enlightenment is known as an Arahant. There need not be any external sign of this attainment, so you cannot tell an enlightened being just by looking at him. He will continue to live a normal life. His aggregates still function, so he will experience pleasant and painful feelings, but he is not moved by these feelings because he is freed from attachment, discrimination and the idea of self. An arahant has full control over his thoughts, and also his feelings/sensations. He has not lost the ability feel pain, but he can control his reactions to it. The Buddha experienced pain when he was wounded by a stone splinter, and he also suffered from indigestion, but he withstood them with mindfulness and clear comprehension. We can say that there are two kinds of pain - mental and physical. Arahants experience only the latter. "Pain is inevitable, suffering is not" (Dr.Gunaratana).
In Thag.715-6 Arahant Adhimutta disconcerted a potential assailant by saying he was not perturbed at the prospect of the ending of the constituents of "his" personality; he had no thought of I, just a stream of changing phenomena. The robber became his follower.
The arahant creates no new kamma because his mind is calmed and he is free from unwholesome motivation of lobha, dosa, moha and the three wholesome roots which are their opposites. He has gone beyond good and evil but his body will continue to be subject to the normal problems which trouble all bodies. Eventually, the body will fail and death will result, which leads us to the second aspect of nibbana.
2. Anupadisesa nibbana (or khanda parinibbana) When death occurs, the five groups of aggregates dissolve and the Arahant then attains what is called Parinibbana, i.e. "no more continuing".
"There are, O Bhikkhus, two elements of Nibbana. What two? The element of Nibbana with the basis (upadi) still remaining and that without basis.
"Herein, O Bhikkhus, a Bhikkhu is an Arahant, one who has destroyed the defilements, who has lived the life, done what was to be done, laid aside the burden, who has attained his goal, who has destroyed the fetters of existence, who, rightly understanding, is delivered. His five sense-organs still remain, and as he is not devoid of them he undergoes the pleasant and the unpleasant experiences. That destruction of his attachment, hatred and delusion is called 'the element of nibbana with the basis still remaining'.
"What, O Bhikkhus, is the 'element of nibbana without the basis'? Herein, Bhikkhus, a Bhikkhu is an Arahant.....is delivered. In this very life all his sensations will have no delight for him, they will be cooled. This is called 'the element of Nibbana without a basis'. (Itivuttaka)
Who is that realises Nibbana? This is not a proper question. We have already touched on the idea that there is no permanent soul or self, and that an individual is nothing other than the five groups of aggregates which exist in a state of constant flux. This means that there is nothing behind the thinking process - thought itself is the thinker, there is no thinker behind the thought. Similarly, we can say that it is wisdom (panna) which realises nibbana. There is no permanent self which realises it.
"For there is suffering, but none who suffers; doing exists although there is no doer. Nibbana exists but no extinguished person; although there is a path, there is no goer." (Vsm. XVI.90)
Another question which is sometimes asked - where does an Arahant go when he attains Parinibbana? The Buddha likened this situation to that of a fire going out. He said that it would not be sensible to ask where the fire had gone, whether it had gone East or West, North or South. The fire depended on grass and wood, and when the fuel has all been consumed, the fire goes out. In the same way the Arahant has attained release from all the five aggregates. We cannot say where he has gone . The expression sometimes used is "gone beyond" or "extinction".
There are three kinds of enlightened being or Buddha - savaka (arahant), pacceka, sammasambuddha. Their realisation of nibbana is identical. There are no different degrees or classes of nibbana.
The arahant is also known as Savaka Buddha. 2 kinds of Arahatship, based on two duties or vocations:
vipassana dhura practice of vipassana meditation, leading to Sukka vipassaka, elimination of lobha, dosa, moha, but no special powers. Dry vision.
gantha dhura embracing all aspects of religious life, not just study, but an entire way of living or way of practising. Leads to Catupatisambhida with 4 special qualities:-
1. attha - analytical knowledge of meaning (i.e. dependent origination; nibbana; meaning of words; kamma result; functional consciousness)
2. dhamma - analytical knowledge of dhamma (i.e. every cause produces a result; the noble path; the spoken word; the karmically wholesome; and the karmically unwholesome)
3. nirutti - analytical knowledge of the language concerning these things.
4. patibhana - analytical knowledge of the kinds of knowledge, esp. the above three in all their details, objects, functions, etc.
These powers come automatically as a result of practices developed in previous lives.
There are four stages leading to this attainment:-
1. Sotapanna - Stream-enterer
2. Sakadagami - Once-returner
3. Anagami - Non-returner
4. Arahant - Sainthood
A Paccekabuddha is a person who discovers enlightenment for himself, but who is unable to teach it to others. A pacceka (private) Buddha lacks the power to purify and serve others by teaching the dhamma which he himself has discovered. Pacceka Buddhas arise only during those periods when the teaching of a samma sambuddha does not exist.
A Sammasambuddha also discovers enlightenment for himself, but in addition he is able to teach others. All three are equal in terms of their enlightenment, i.e. their liberation from defilements, which means that there are not three different classes of Nibbana. However, the Savaka and the Pacceka are regarded as inferior to the Sammasambuddha in terms of other, special qualities.
The decision is left to the individual whether to take the path of the Savaka, Paccekabuddha or Sammasambuddha.
Special Qualities of the Buddha
Only the Buddha has the ability to discern the degree of spiritual maturity of other beings, e.g. Angulimala, Alavaka, Cula-panthaka, the leper Suppabuddha - Udana p.48-51. He also has refined clairvoyance (dibbacakkhu). All arahants may realise the truth of kamma, but the Buddha's knowledge is limitless and encompasses the external world as well - all the different realms, and what type of action leads to rebirth in each realm. The enlightenment experience of an Arahant is likened to that of a man, standing on the bank of a pond of crystal-clear water, sees the pebbles, shells, fish, etc. in the pond. Whereas the experience of a Buddha is like the panoramic view one gets from the summit of a mountain. (M.I. 279 & 168) Also, only the Buddha has the ability to understand all sorts of deep philosophical questions, although he chose not to teach them.
Some people asked the Buddha whether he continued to exist after death. This was one of the 10 questions on which he refused to give an answer (abyakata). His disciple Malunkyaputta once asked him the following questions:-
1. Is the universe eternal? 2. Is it not eternal? 3. Is the universe finite? 4. Is it infinite? 5. Is the soul the same as body? 6. Is soul one thing and body another thing? 7. Does the Tathagata exist after death? 8. Does he not exist after death? 9. Does he both (at the same time) exist and not exist after death? 10. Does he both (at the same time) not exist and not not-exist?
The Buddha did not answer such speculative questions because he said that it was not necessary for us to know about such matters as they are not conducive to our attaining enlightenment. He went on to give Malunkyaputta a beautiful analogy. He said it is like a man who has been hit in the arm by a poisoned arrow and he is brought to a surgeon, but he refuses to allow the surgeon to pull out the arrow until certain questions have been answered. Who shot me? What was his caste? What was his name and his family? What was his stature and the colour of his skin? From which town did he come? What kind of bow was used? What kind of bowstring? What type of arrow and what type of feathers? The point that the Buddha is making that while the man is asking all these questions, he will be killed by the poison.
Similarly, we have an urgent problem - we are caught up in dukkha. The most important thing is to obtain release from dukkha, not to waste our time asking unnecessary questions about the nature of the universe, etc. The Buddha used this story to impress upon us the urgency of the situation and how we must direct our efforts entirely towards the goal of liberation. He said that his entire teachings were directed towards this end. He never engaged in mere intellectual debate; all his teaching was directed towards one end. "Just as the mighty ocean has but one taste - the taste of salt, so too have my teachings but one taste - the taste of deliverance." On another occasion he said to Anuradha, "I teach only dukkha and the end of dukkha." (Samyutta Nikaya 3.117)
This is not to say that he did not know the answers to all sorts of philosophical questions. There is a story about a time when the Buddha was in a Simsapa forest near Kosambi with his monks. He picked up a handful a leaves and he asked the monks, "What do you think, monks, which is greater in quantity, the handful of simsapa leaves gathered by me, or what is in the forest overhead? Not many, trifling, Ven. Sir, are the leaves in the handful gathered by the Blessed One, many are the leaves in the forest overhead. Even so, monks, are the things I have fully realised, but not declared unto you; few are the things I have declared unto you. And why, monks, have I not declared them? They, monks, are indeed not useful, are not essential to the life of purity, they do not lead to disgust, to dispassion, to cessation, to tranquillity, to full understanding, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. That is why, monks, they are not declared by me. And what is it, monks, that I have declared?
This is dukkha - this have I declared.
This is the arising of dukkha - this have I declared.
This is the cessation of dukkha - this have I declared.
This is the path leading to the cessation of dukkha - this have I declared.
And why, monks, have I declared these truths? They are indeed useful, they are essential to the life of purity, they lead to disgust, to dispassion, to cessation, to tranquillity, to full understanding, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. That is why, monks, they are declared by me." (S:V.437)
Iti pi so bhagava araham sammasambuddho vijjacaranasampanno sugato lokavidu anuttaro purisadammasarathi sattha devamanussanam buddho bhagava'ti.
In their totality these qualities cannot apply to an arahant. These are all special qualities which the Buddha acquired as an Awakened being. The first of these is Araham, which means 'worthy of honour, accomplished'. The Buddha is worthy of honour because he has eradicated all defilements such as greed, hatred, ignorance and all other negative mental qualities. This is something which we are all striving to do, but we have not succeeded yet, so we honour the Buddha for having done so. The Buddha is accomplished by virtue of his understanding of the doctrine of dependent origination and his destruction of the wheel of becoming.
The second quality is sammasambuddho. He was self-enlightened; he did not need a teacher, but he had the ability to teach others.
The third quality is vijjacaranasampanno, which means 'perfect in knowledge and conduct'. Through countless lifetimes as a bodhisatta he perfected his conduct by practising the ten parami. Altogether there are 15 kinds of virtuous conduct. When he attained enlightenment then the Buddha also acquired perfect knowledge, omniscience, which means recollection of his former lives, knowledge of the destiny of beings, eradication of all defilements, knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, and knowledge of the noble eightfold path. He said that in all his previous existences leading up to his attainment of enlightenment, he performed every kind of unwholesome action except one - he never told a lie.
The fourth quality is sugato, 'sublime, fully accomplished, Blessed One'. He is blessed because he had perfect speech, and also because he was the first to realise Nibbana without the guidance of a teacher.
The fifth quality is lokavidu, which means 'knower of worlds'. Not only could the Buddha see all his own former existences, but he could also see the former lives and the destinies of other beings. He knew the nature of all beings, their characteristics and temperaments. He also knew about the different planes of existence, and the true nature of mind and matter.
The sixth quality is anuttaro purisadammasarathi, 'the incomparable leader of men to be tamed'. The Buddha was incomparable in his virtue, and in his special qualities of concentration, understanding, deliverance and knowledge. Because of his ability to understand the temperaments and abilities of all people, the Buddha was able to teach them in the way that would be most suitable for them to understand what he was teaching.
The seventh quality is sattha devamanussanam, 'teacher of gods and men'. The Buddha was the perfect teacher and was able to instruct gods, men and even animals on how to progress along the path. He taught beings at all levels of understanding.
The eighth quality is buddho, which means 'awakened one or enlightened one, one who knows'. The Buddha was awakened because of his understanding of the four noble truths, which he discovered for himself on the night of his enlightenment.
The ninth and last quality is bhagava, which means 'Exalted One, or Blessed One'. The Buddha is exalted because he possessed six special qualities which are:-
1. Control of his mind.
2. Nine supramundane qualities, which means the four paths to sainthood, their four fruits, and attainment of nibbana.
3. Good disciples.
4. Glory, which refers to the 32 major and 80 minor marks of a great person.
5. The wish to further the well-being of all beings. It was out of his compassion for suffering beings that he devoted so many lives and so much effort to attaining enlightenment so that he might help others to reach that same state.
6. Untiring energy.
After he had attained enlightenment, the Buddha had nothing else to achieve, yet he devoted the remaining 45 years of his life tirelessly to teaching the dhamma. He slept only a few hours each night and never lost an opportunity to teach. The Buddha taught that each of us has within ourselves the potential to realise nibbana. People progress along the spiritual path at different speeds, but all of us have this potential to become enlightened. Enlightenment is a gradual process, not attained all-of-a-sudden, like the unfolding of a flower's petals. We have the testimony of many thousands of people from all periods since the time of Buddha who have attained to this state. Why do we find it so difficult to realise nibbana? In Buddhist teachings there are said to be ten "fetters" (samyojana) which hold back our progress. What is a fetter? Suppose there is a black cow and a white cow tied together with a rope. Is the black cow a fetter to the white one, or the white one a fetter to the black one? In fact neither is a fetter to the other; the fetter is the rope which ties them together. Similarly, the desire for sensual objects is the fetter which binds us. We can say that the spiritual path is really a process of purification, cleansing the mind of the various impurities which prevent us from seeing the truth. The eradication of these fetters leads eventually to the realisation of nibbana.
Another word for nibbana is samyojanakkhaya. Before we go into detail concerning these ten fetters, we need to look briefly at the Buddhist teaching concerning different planes of existence.
These planes & the word nibbana are pre-Buddhistic. Dukkha can be experienced in any of 31 planes of existence. We continue circling in samsara indefinitely, due to craving which causes kamma. Life in some of these planes lasts for an inconceivably long time - for periods which may seem like an eternity and this gives rise to the idea of immortality. Gods living in the heavenly realms (where they enjoy much pleasure) may think that they are living an eternal life. The point, however, about life in all of these planes, no matter how long-lasting it may appear to be, is that it is impermanent. Sooner or later life in that plane comes to an end and rebirth in another plane is the inevitable result. One monk has said, "Gods have nothing to do with religion".
The Buddha never encouraged his followers to hope for rebirth in a heavenly realm. He emphasised the great importance of a human birth. It is only in the human realm that we have the opportunity to hear the Buddha's teaching of the dhamma, to put the teachings into practice and eventually to attain nibbana. Do not seek heavenly rebirth. We speak of a precious human birth, only from the human realm can we attain nibbana.
Now let us look in detail at the ten fetters, which stand in the way of our realisation of nibbana:-
1. Sakkaya-ditthi This is translated as "personality belief". This is the wrong belief that we are solid beings, which leads to the illusion of a separate self, egoism, or individuality. This is a major obstacle to spiritual progress. Not only are we attached to the idea of self, we even glorify it. Conceit, arrogance, pride, self-abasement. Attachment to idea of "I" is fundamental to all problems; we defend the idea of I, we seek to cherish I, make a fuss of it. It is difficult to be entirely free from idea of self, but at least do not take the 5 aggregates as self.
2. Vicikiccha This means sceptical doubt. In particular, doubt about (a) the Buddha, (b) the Dhamma, (c) the Sangha, (d) the disciplinary rules, (e) the past (for example, "What have I been in the past?"), (f) the future (for example, "What shall I be in the future?"), (g) both the past and the future (for example, "From what state to what state shall I change in the future?", "What am I?", "How am I?", etc.), (h) the doctrine of dependent origination. The Buddha said that this kind of doubt is like being lost in a desert without a map. Need to develop faith.
3. Silabbataparamasa This means adherence to wrongful rites, rituals and ceremonies in the mistaken belief that purification can be achieved simply by their performance. Examples are the extreme ascetic practices which we learned last week were condemned by the Buddha. Also at that time, the Brahmins had developed very complicated rituals which only they could carry out and which meant that the rest of the population had to ask the Brahmins for perform all the religious ceremonies on their behalf. "Oneself is one's own master. Who else can be the master?" (Dhp. v. 160).
The Buddha said that neither the repetition of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring us the real happiness of Nibbana. Instead the Buddha emphasised the importance of making individual effort in order to achieve our spiritual goals. He likened it to a man wanting to cross a river; sitting down and praying will not suffice, but he must make the effort to build a raft or a bridge.
The Buddha was talking to one of his prominent lay-disciples, called Anathapindika and said, "There are, O householder, five desirable, pleasant and agreeable things which are rare in the world. What are those five? They are long life, beauty, happiness, fame and (rebirth in) the heavens. But of these five things, O householder, I do not teach that they are to be obtained by prayer or by vows. If one could obtain them by prayer or vows, who would not do it?
"For a noble disciple who wishes to have long life, it is not befitting that he should pray for long life or take delight in so doing. He should rather follow a path of life that is conducive to longevity." (Anguttara Nikaya V, 43) He goes on to recommend the same course of action in respect of the other four desirable things.
4. Kama-raga This means sensual desire. As we have seen, this is one of the roots of tanha which is at the heart of all our problems with dukkha.
5. Patigha The literal meaning of this term is "to hit against", but it is often translated into English as "ill-will or hatred". This is the cause of conflict both on an individual basis, and between nations as well.
6. Rupa-raga Attachment to the form realms. This is the desire to be reborn in one of the rupaloka. Still binding ourselves to samsara.
7. Arupa-raga Attachment to the formless realms. This is the desire to be reborn in one of the arupaloka.
8. Mana Literally this means "measuring" and is often translated as "conceit, arrogance, self-assertion or pride", but measuring is a better term because it means all forms of evaluation. Feeling oneself to be superior to others (the superiority complex) is indeed a form a conceit. But mana also includes measuring in the sense of judging oneself to be inferior to others (the inferiority complex) and also equal to others. Even in spiritual matters, e.g. how many do you observe precepts? how long do you sit for meditation? Certainly we are all different, but it is not helpful to engage in comparisons between oneself and others.
9. Uddhacca This means restlessness. It is the confused, distracted, restless state of mind, in which there is no tranquillity or peace. It has been defined as, "the excitement of mind which is disturbance, agitation of the heart, turmoil of mind." (Dhammasangani 429). It is the opposite of one-pointedness.
10. Avijja This is translated as "ignorance", but this is ignorance in a special sense. It does not mean ignorance as it is used in the everyday sense, but it means specifically ignorance of the four Noble Truths and the delusion which prevents us from seeing the real nature of impermanence and dukkha.
The first five fetters are known as lower fetters (orambhagiya-samyojana) because they bind us to the sensuous world. The second five fetters are known as higher fetters (uddhambhagiya-samyojana) because they bind us to the rupa and arupa worlds.
These fetters can be eradicated in four stages, what we call the four stages of sainthood. When a fetter has been eradicated, this is permanent, it does not come back again. One who has eradicated the first three fetters is a stream-enterer (sotapanna). He has had a glimpse of nibbana, like someone walking in the foothills of a mountain has a glimpse of the top of the mountain through the clouds. He has entered the stream that leads to nibbana. He has complete confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and perfect moral conduct. He will be reborn at most only seven more times, and never in an unhappy plane.
The next stage of sainthood is once-returner (sakadagami) which is marked by the reduction of the next two fetters. They are not yet eradicated, but are suppressed. The once-returner will be reborn only once more and that will be in the human realm.
When these two fetters are completely eradicated, then the third stage has been reached. This is non-returner (anagami). He will not be reborn in the human or the celestial realms, but only in the pure abodes (suddhavasa). There he will attain the fourth and final stage of sainthood.
The last stage is the Arahant, and is marked by the eradication of the last five fetters. This state is not restricted by age, sex or social status. It is open to lay people as well as ordained monks. The Arahant will continue to live for his body's natural span, but he has eradicated all craving which binds ordinary people to the process of rebirth. The Arahant creates no new kamma; he has gone beyond both good and evil, but he must still live with the kammic effects of his previous actions. There is the story of Cakkupala who became an Arahant and went blind simultaneously. The blindness occurred because in a previous life he had been a doctor who had deliberately blinded a patient, who had promised to become his servant if he could cure her seeing problem. But when the life in the body eventually passes away the Arahant has to die just like anyone else. One can summarise this state by saying that it is freedom of suffering, it is the destruction of egoism, and it is the eradication of the greed, hatred and delusion.
In the Ratana Sutta is says:- "Their past is dead, the new no more arises, Mind to future becoming is unattached, The germ has died. They have no more desire for growth. Those wise (and steadfast ones) go out as died this lamp." (Sutta Nipata, 14)
To summarise: Although nibbana may be defined as the end of craving, it is not a conditioned state, it is not the result of anything. The direct nature of the Buddha's teaching is focussed solely on the cessation of dukkha. The eradication of the ten fetters leads through four stages of sainthood to the ultimate goal of all Buddhist practice, which is the realisation of nibbana. The way which leads to this realisation is called the Noble Eightfold Path.
"Through many a birth I wandered in samsara, seeking, but not finding, the builder of the house. Sorrowful is it to be born again and again. "O, housebuilder! Thou art seen. Thou shalt build no house again. All thy rafters are broken. Thy ridge-pole is shattered. "My mind has attained the unconditioned. Achieved is the end of craving." (Dhp, 153/4)