The Buddha's path to liberation

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby starter » Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:45 am

Hi Mike and other friends,

I took a closer look at Visuddhimagga, and found the training on the four mindfulness in Mindfulness of Breathing of the Samadhi section (Part II, Page 159), but it's only listed under "OTHER RECOLLECTIONS AS MEDITATION SUBJECTS", as one among many listed meditation subjects; if one chooses e.g. earth kasina as his mediation subject for samadhi then he might not really pratice the 4 mindfulness. Although in the "PURIFICATION BY KNOWLEDGE AND VISION" (the last step leading to Nibbana), four mindfulness is mentioned as part of the 37 enlightenment factors (as you cited above), its actual, systematic training might be omitted by those who follow the steps of practice outlined in Visuddhimagga.

Furthermore, I didn't find the step of training on the establishment of the 4 mindfulness there (although MN 10 is mentioned). I believe that the four tetrad of mindfulness of breathing is for developing/perfecting the 4 mindfulness, with their establishing (as taught in MN 10) as foundation, based upon the Buddha's teaching:

"This is the direct way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the four establishings of mindfulness." (MN 10) [This is the way to reach the Noble 8-fold path, which doesn't mean that practicing it alone leads to Nibbana.]

“Bhikkhus, mindfulness of breathing, when developed and much
practiced, perfects the four foundations of mindfulness." (MN 117)

In addition to the missing of the systematic training on the establishings of the 4 mindfulness (including full awareness and clear comprehension) as part of the outlined steps, I also didn't find the systematic training on "hearing the Dhamma"[/b]. Studying the Dhamma (the Teaching) is the most important step for a beginner (for establishing Right View and Right Resolve/Thinking), and is the first step of the practice outlined by the Buddha:[/color]

“A householder or householder’s son or one born in some other clan hears that Dhamma. On hearing the Dhamma he acquires faith in the Tathāgata. Possessing that faith, ..." (MN 27)

I tend to think that the missing of this most important step has contributed to the following of Visuddhimagga as the "bible", in replacement of the suttas.

I also tend to think that as a commentary Visuddhimagga should better be used as a reference book (it might be the way the writer intended), which could be right could be wrong, instead of as a step-by-step "bible" as "The path of purification".

Please correct me if I'm wrong. Thanks and metta!

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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 17, 2014 3:57 am

Hi Starter,

In the gradual training suttas some of the early steps of the entire training include mindfulness and wakefulness:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .horn.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Following that pattern, there are references to mindfulness in the Virtue section of the VM, e.g. Chapter 1:
I.6 ...
And in some instances by the foundations of mindfulness, etc., according as it
is said: “Bhikkhus, this path is the only way for the purification of beings ... for the
realization of Nibbána, that is to say, the four foundations of mindfulness” (D II
290); and similarly in the case of the right efforts, and so on.

I.48 Proper conduct should be understood in the opposite sense to that.
Furthermore, a bhikkhu is respectful, deferential, possessed of conscience and
shame, wears his inner robe properly, wears his upper robe properly, his manner
inspires confidence whether in moving forwards or backwards, looking ahead or
aside, bending or stretching, his eyes are downcast, he has (a good) deportment,
he guards the doors of his sense faculties, knows the right measure in eating, is
devoted to wakefulness, possesses mindfulness and full awareness, wants little, is
contented, is strenuous, is a careful observer of good behaviour, and treats the
teachers with great respect. This is called (proper) conduct.
This firstly is how (proper) conduct should be understood.

I.51 What is (proper) resort as anchoring? It is the four foundations of mindfulness
on which the mind is anchored; for this is said by the Blessed One: “Bhikkhus,
what is a bhikkhu’s resort, his own native place? It is these four foundations of
mindfulness” (S V 148).


Starter wrote:I also tend to think that as a commentary Visuddhimagga should better be used as a reference book (it might be the way the writer intended), which could be right could be wrong, instead of as a step-by-step "bible" as "The path of purification".

Well, of course, it is a reference book, and in many places describes differing opinions and different ways that practitioners have developed the path. That, of course, is one of it's strengths.

As for "could be right or wrong": Of course anything written by any teacher, ancient or modern, could be wrong, as could be one's own current interpretation. With the ancient suttas and commentaries there is also the possibility of mis-translation, or lack of familiarity of some crucial background information, so it is by no means a simple matter to be certain of accuracy of information and so it is useful to compare advice from multiple sources.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby starter » Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:21 pm

Hello Mike,

Thanks for the helpful comments and the links. To my understanding, the gradual training outlined in some early discourses starting from the training of sila were meant for the "learners" (the 1st type of noble monastic disciples), who had already heard the Dhamma and gained the faith in the Buddha:

MN 27:
"In the same way, brahman, there is the case where a Tathagata appears in the world, worthy and rightly self-awakened. He teaches the Dhamma admirable in its beginning, admirable in its middle, admirable in its end. He proclaims the holy life both in its particulars and in its essence, entirely perfect, surpassingly pure.

"A householder or householder's son, hearing the Dhamma, gains faith in the Tathagata and reflects: 'Household life is confining, a dusty path. Life gone forth is the open air. It isn't easy, living at home, to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, a polished shell. What if I, having shaved off my hair & beard and putting on the ochre robe, were to go forth from the household life into homelessness?'
"So after some time he abandons his mass of wealth, large or small; leaves his circle of relatives, large or small; shaves off his hair and beard, puts on the ochre robes, and goes forth from the household life into homelessness.”

When he has thus gone forth, endowed with the monks' training & livelihood, then …" (start training on sila)

MN 107:

"Brahman, such is my instruction for those monks who are learners who, perfection being not yet attained, dwell longing for the incomparable security from the bonds.”

Visuddhimagga might be intended for such learners as well. At least in the Buddha's time, the monks started their training as learners, because they had gone forth because of their faith on the Teaching. This might also apply to the time of Ven. Buddhagosa. If that's the case, the missing of "hearing the Dhamma" from Visuddhimagga is not to be blamed. But it would be better to make it clear that the commentory is meant for the "learners" only, that it is only to be used as a reference book for the Teaching and the practitioners should follow the Teaching (suttas) instead.

I agree that there are different ways that practitioners have developed the path. It appears to me that the Buddha had taught different ways as well. His early teachings such as MN 107 and MN 27 appear to have taught the way how he was practicing and becoming enlightened. I couldn't find the complete set of training on mindfulness of body/ feeling/mind states/Dhamma as outlined in MN 10 (and then MN 118) in these early suttas. I suppose that the practitioners with very little dust in their eyes and possessing very keen faculties and good mastery of samadhi (jhanas) could become enlightened that way.

It appears to me that the later discourses (e.g. MN 10, MN 118, the suttas on dependent origination) taught more methods for developing the path, to suit different practitioners with different faculties/"illnesses". These methods, such as those taught in MN 10 for establishing the FOUR mindfulness, are very effective. It would be a pity not to incorporate them in the training.

Just some food for thought. Thanks and metta!

Starter :anjali:

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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 18, 2014 12:52 am

starter wrote:Visuddhimagga might be intended for such learners as well. At least in the Buddha's time, the monks started their training as learners, because they had gone forth because of their faith on the Teaching. This might also apply to the time of Ven. Buddhagosa. If that's the case, the missing of "hearing the Dhamma" from Visuddhimagga is not to be blamed. But it would be better to make it clear that the commentory is meant for the "learners" only, that it is only to be used as a reference book for the Teaching and the practitioners should follow the Teaching (suttas) instead.

I don't understand what you are trying to say. The whole Visuddhimagga is a detailed exposition and explanation of application of Dhamma for serious practitioners - ("learners" in your terminology), with copious references to Vinaya, Sutta, and Abhidhamma.

I'm not sure your "the practitioners" are. Do you mean those who are not undertaking such rigorous training?

:anjali:
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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby starter » Wed Jun 18, 2014 2:13 pm

Hi, those who had heard and understood the Teaching and truly gained faith in the Tathagata (not some others) are already the “learners” (the first of the eight types of noble disciples). They have already entered the path to stream entry. When the three fetters are broken, they become stream winners (the second type of the noble disciples) and enter the "stream" (the N8P). Then they'll gain the path knowledge. :anjali:

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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby starter » Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:14 am

Greetings!

From MN 118 we can see the seven types of the noble disciples that comprised the Sangha of the monks at the Buddha's time, who had gone forth due to their faith on the Buddha and his teaching:

"On that occasion—the Uposatha day of the fifteenth, the full-moon night of the Komudī full moon of the fourth month—the Blessed One was seated in the open surrounded by the Sangha of bhikkhus. Then, surveying the silent Sangha of bhikkhus, he addressed them thus:

“Bhikkhus, this assembly is free from prattle, this assembly is free from chatter. It consists purely of heartwood. Such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, an incomparable field of merit for the world—such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly that a small gift given to it becomes great and a great gift greater—such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as is rare for the world to see—such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as would be worth journeying many leagues with a travel-bag to see—such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly.

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who are arahants with taints destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached their own goal, destroyed the fetters of being, and are completely liberated through final knowledge—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus.

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who, with the destruction of the five lower fetters, are due to reappear spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there attain final Nibbāna, without ever returning from that world—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus.

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who, with the destruction of three fetters and with the attenuation of lust, hate, and delusion, are once-returners, returning once to this world to make an end of suffering—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus.

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who, with the destruction of the three fetters, are stream-enterers, no longer subject to perdition, bound for deliverance, headed for enlightenment—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus.

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who abide devoted to the development of the four foundations of mindfulness—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus. In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who abide devoted to the development of the four right kinds of striving…of the four bases for spiritual power…of the five faculties…of the five powers…of the seven enlightenment factors…of the Noble Eightfold Path—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus. [Dhamma followers]
[I believe that the afore-mentioned other types of "learners" also devote to the development of these 37 factors of enlightenment]

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who abide devoted to the development of loving-kindness …of compassion…of altruistic joy…of equanimity…of the meditation on foulness…of the perception of impermanence—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus. In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who abide devoted to the development of mindfulness of breathing. [Faith followers]

MN 70. Kīṭāgiri Sutta: To Kīṭāgiri
...
“What kind of person is a Dhamma-follower? Here some person does not contact with the body and abide in those liberations that are peaceful and immaterial, transcending forms, and his taints are not yet destroyed by his seeing with wisdom, but those teachings proclaimed by the Tathāgata are accepted by him after reflecting on them sufficiently with wisdom. Furthermore, he has these qualities: the faith faculty, the energy faculty, the mindfulness faculty, the concentration faculty, and the wisdom faculty. This kind of person is called a Dhamma-follower. I say of such a bhikkhu that he still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? Because when that venerable one makes use of suitable resting places and associates with good friends and balances his spiritual faculties, he may by realising for himself with direct knowledge here and now enter upon and abide in that supreme goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the home life into homelessness. Seeing this fruit of diligence for such a bhikkhu, I say that he still has work to do with diligence.

“What kind of person is a faith-follower? Here some person does not contact with the body and abide in those liberations that are peaceful and immaterial, transcending forms, and his taints are not yet destroyed by his seeing with wisdom, yet he has sufficient faith in and love for the Tathāgata. Furthermore, he has these qualities: the faith faculty, the energy faculty, the mindfulness faculty, the concentration faculty, and the wisdom faculty. This kind of person is called a faith-follower. I say of such a bhikkhu that he still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? Because when ... homelessness. Seeing this fruit of diligence for such a bhikkhu, I say that he still has work to do with diligence.

“Bhikkhus, I do not say that final knowledge is achieved all at once. On the contrary, final knowledge is achieved by gradual training, by gradual practice, by gradual progress." ...

Metta to all!

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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby starter » Sat Jun 28, 2014 10:07 pm

Greetings!

The following sutta teaches faith followers how to do vipasana to develop panna:

MN 62. Maha-Rahulovada Sutta: The Greater Exhortation to Rahula

In this sutta, the Buddha taught Ven. Rahula to develop the following, which is pretty much in line with the above-cited teaching for faith followers in MN 118:

1) Anatta of five aggregates:
"Rahula, any kind of material form (feeling, perception, volitions and cognition) whatever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all material form should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'"

2) Anatta of five elements / body composition:
Earth element (solid matter),
Water element (connecting and conducting matter),
Fire element (energy matter),
Wind element (moving matter),
Space element

"Now both the internal earth element and the external earth element are simply the earth element… And that should be seen as it actually is with right discernment: 'This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.' When one sees it thus as it actually is with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the earth element and makes the mind dispassionate toward the earth element." ...

3) Development meditation that is like each of the five elements:

“... for When you develop meditation that is like the earth (water, fire, wind), arisen agreeable & disagreeable contacts will not influence your mind and remain. Just as when people throw what is clean or unclean on the earth — feces, urine, saliva, pus, or blood — the earth is not repelled, humiliated, and disgusted by it; in the same way, when you develop meditation that is like the earth (water, fire, wind), arisen agreeable & disagreeable contacts will not influence your mind and remain.”

““... for When you develop meditation that is like the space, arisen agreeable & disagreeable contacts will not influence your mind and remain. Just as space is not established anywhere; in the same way, when you develop meditation that is like space, arisen agreeable & disagreeable contacts will not influence your mind and remain.”

4) Development meditation on metta (to abandon ill will) / karuna (to abandon cruelty) / mudita (to abandon discontent) / upekkha (to abandon aversion)

5) Develop meditation on Asubhaṃ (foulness, to abandon lust)

6) Develop meditation on perception of anicca (to abandon the attitude “I am”)

7) Develop meditation on Ānāpānassati (16 steps, 4 foundations of mindfulness)


I suppose that Ven. Rahula had fulfilled the sila and samadhi training (he had ordained for about 11 years by then), and had mastered the first jhana to practice Ānāpānassati. It's interesting to note that the previous six steps were taught before the step of Ānāpānassati. I believe that the sequence taught in MN 62 and MN 118 for developing panna should be followed by the faith followers.

Metta to all!

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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby culaavuso » Sun Jun 29, 2014 10:54 pm

starter wrote:...
5) Develop meditation on Asubhaṃ (foulness, to abandon lust)
...
7) Develop meditation on Ānāpānassati (16 steps, 4 foundations of mindfulness)


It's interesting that the sutta lists meditation on foulness before the mindfulness of breathing. This is useful to compare with SN 54.9 which describes a mass suicide of monks after intense asubha practice and the remedy given was to teach ānāpānasati. In this way, focusing on asubha prematurely could be dangerous. It's not immediately clear whether SN 54.9 or MN 62 happened first. The events in SN 54.9 seem to suggest at least that it's not strictly necessary to develop the perception of asubha to perfection before practicing ānāpānasati.

SN 54.9: Vesālī Sutta wrote:...
Then the Blessed One, emerging from his seclusion after half a month's time, said to Ven. Ananda, "Ananda, why does the community of monks seem so depleted?"

"Because, lord, the Blessed One, with many lines of reasoning, gave the monks a talk on the unattractiveness [of the body], spoke in praise of [the perception of] unattractiveness, spoke in praise of the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness. The monks — [thinking,] 'The Blessed One, with many lines of reasoning, has given a talk on the unattractiveness [of the body], has spoken in praise of [the perception of] unattractiveness, has spoken in praise of the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness' — remained committed to the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness in many modes & manners. They — ashamed, repelled, & disgusted with this body — sought for an assassin. In one day, ten monks took the knife. In one day, twenty monks took the knife. In one day, thirty monks took the knife. It would be good, lord, if the Blessed One would explain another method so that this community of monks might be established in gnosis."

"In that case, Ananda, gather in the assembly hall all the monks who live in dependence on Vesali."

"As you say, lord," Ven. Ananda responded. When he had gathered in the assembly hall all the monks who lived in dependence on Vesali, he went to the Blessed One and said, "The community of monks is gathered, lord. Now is the time to do as the Blessed One sees fit."

Then the Blessed One went to the assembly hall and sat down on a seat made ready. As he was sitting there, he addressed the monks: "Monks, this concentration through mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, when developed & pursued, is both peaceful & exquisite, a refreshing & pleasant abiding that immediately disperses & allays any evil, unskillful [mental] qualities that have arisen.
...

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Re: The Buddha's path to liberation

Postby starter » Tue Jul 01, 2014 1:07 am

Hello culaavuso,

Thanks for raising an interesting point. It's clear that asubha meditation was initially taught before ānāpānasati, and MN 62 appeared to be taught after SN 54.9. Let's review the following In MN 62:

[Ven. Sariputta:] "Rahula, develop the meditation of ānāpānasati. The meditation of ānāpānasati, when developed & pursued, is of great fruit, of great benefit."

Then Ven. Rahula, emerging from his seclusion in the late afternoon, went to the Blessed One and, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to him, "How, lord, is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing to be developed & pursued so as to be of great fruit, of great benefit?"

The Buddha did not directly answer his question, but rather taught him the other six practices first, before finally teaching him ānāpānasati. However, considering that Ven. Sariputta's teaching, it may well be that ānāpānasati can be practiced simultaneously with the other six practices. It's not that asubha should be replaced by ānāpānasati.

Metta to all!


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