1.1.1 What is Buddhism?
The real Buddhism is not temples, or statues of the Buddha, or giving alms, or ceremonies. While these are all worthwhile, they do not answer the question. What is the real Buddhism? If we say that the real Buddhism is the practice of meditation using mindfulness and clear comprehension to realize wisdom – and thus erase all defilement, and end suffering – we are getting closer. But we still are not there.
If we say that the real Buddhism is matter (rupa) and mind (nama) – then we are getting a little more close; but even this is not entirely satisfactory. The word “nama” might still convey the notion of a mind that is compact, all of one piece, doing all these different mental functions. In order to give a truer picture of the mind, nama must be expressed as mental state (cittas)ñ, each arising separately, and each different from the other: the mental state that sees is not the same as the mental state that hears, the mental state that is wandering mind is different from the mental state that observes body (rupa) in practice, etc. “We”, our entire existence, at any given time is simply the arising of one of these mental states, which is quickly replace by another.
But mental state (citta) is still not enough. Mental states (cittas) are actually made up of 52 different mental properties, called cetasikas. (For example, contact, feeling, perception, etc. are cetasikas.) So now, our true definition of nama becomes citta-cetasika. We may now add rupa to our definition of Buddhist reality, and so we get citta-cetasika and rupa. But citta-cetasika-rupa is still not the whole “picture.” If we practice successfully (realize rupa and nama are not “us”) we will reach a state where a brief path-moment arises that erases defilements. This path moment has nibbana as an object, and this nibbana is also a part of Buddhist reality
Thus, our final definition of Buddhist reality now becomes mind-body and enlightenment – or to state it in Pali, the language of Buddhism: cita-cetasika-rupa, and nibbana. These four things, in Buddhism, are ultimate reality. This means they are those things in the universe that are “real” -- that is, they do not require concepts to understand. So, every living thing in the universe is made up of the first three of these – citta-cetasika and rupa. Nibbana – which is the object of the path moment that erases defilement in each of the four stages of enlightenment – is the fourth part of ultimate reality: citta-cetasika, rupa, and nibbana. (It is important to know that nibbana is just an object of the mind at a certain stage of wisdom. It actually appears as a very brief moment of peace and stillness -- and its nature is no defilements.)
ñ For a fuller explanation of all Pali terms, see glossary in back of this book.
The purpose in Buddhism of the first three (citta-cetasika-rupa) is to demonstrate that “you” are really made up of many parts (rapidly-changing mental states and rapidly-changing matter), and since none of these parts are “you”, the parts together are not “you” either. The science in Buddhism that divides body and mind into smaller and smaller parts is called Abbhid-hamma: this science helps to better see that ‘we’ are not man, not woman, not-self, etc.
Our first definition of Buddhism, then, is that this ultimate reality (citta-cetasika-rupa, & nibbana) is Buddhism – real Buddhism.
Every living thing in the world answers to this mind-matter definition (cita-cetasika-rupa). Non-living things are just matter, rupa. Even though people do not know this definition, may never have even heard of Buddhism, they are still citta-cetasika-rupa, and nibbana still exists as a state that the mind (citta-cetasika) can reach when the mind has absolute purity. Now, having read this simple explanation of the real Buddhism, you can, it is hoped, progress with a little more confidence to our teacher’s more technical discussion of this important subject, which is described in the following paragraphs.
126.96.36.199 Discussion: Buddhism can be defined in two ways:
1) The true state of the nature of the world, and
2) The teaching of the Lord Buddha.
1. The true state of the nature of the world.
The Lord Buddha said “Sabbha dhamma anatta.” This means,
Literally, all dhamma (things) are without self.” Thus, we can see that the four elements of ultimate reality in the universe – mind (citta-cetasika), matter (rupa), and enlightenment (nibbana) – all have the same single characteristic: they are without self.
These four elements are the true state of the nature of the world (sabhava dhamma) – i.e., no self, no man, no woman, no dog, etc. Sabhava, in this eassay, refers mainly to not-self, not man, not woman, etc. Not-self is the only one of the Three Characteristics (impermanence, suffering, not-self) that fits all four of the elements of ultimate reality. This is because nibbana is supramundane: permanent, and happy, but not-self. Citta-cetasika-rupa is mundane: impermanent, suffering and not-self.
a) Everybody has three of the above four things citta - cetasika and rupa. Or these four can be summarized as body and mind (rupa and nama). Or in more detail, they can be broken down into five parts called aggregates: Body , feeling , perception , volition , and consciousness. These three ( citta- cetasika and rupa) keep us on the wheel of rebirth that is a continual round of birth, old age, sickness and death. These three occur because of cause and aiding condition; they always depend on each other (body can’t act without mind, mind is helpless without body, for example); and they arise and immediately fall away, continuously through life. This happens every moment (split-second), and because it happens whether we are aware of it or not, it is called mundane dhamma. This true state of the nature (sabhava) does not occur because of God or Brahma or any other miraculous intervention.
The Five Aggregates, or body-mind (rupa-nama), are suffering (dukkha-sacca) (“sacca” means “truth”, thus dukkha-sacca is the truth of suffering – the First Noble Truth). The Five aggregates are the real dukkha-sacca and they are the result of cause. That cause is craving, as stated in the Second Noble Truth, the truth of the cause of suffering. The real creator of rupa and nama is defilement. Defilement is craving or, in practice, the defilements are desire, aversion, and delusion. It is only from defilement that body and mind are created. This body and mind (Five Aggregates) is what we conventionally think is a man or woman, or this person or that, or this nation or that. That which creates (defilement) and that which is created (Five Aggregates) has the three characteristics -- impermanence, suffering, and not self and they are natural law. There is no exception to this for any being.
b) Nibbana however is ultimate reality (sabhava-dhamma) and is outside the Five Aggregates – that is to say, outside the “world” (The Buddha said that, for each being the “world” is really the Five Aggregates, since everying we experience comes through them. This “world” can be called the “aggregates-word” or the “rupa-nama-world”.)
Nibbana is an object of the path moment that erases defilement, and hence suffering – this occurs at the 14th of the 16 Vipassana knowledges (yanas) – and the fruition, or savoring, which follows it (15th yana). Nib-bana is called supra-mundane because it is the dhamma that extinguishes defilement and hence suffering. Nibbana is permanent and happy. But it is not a man or woman – no self.
This is real Buddhism. Prince Siddhatha discovered the wisdom that is the Four Noble Truths by himself. Nobody taught him. Hence, he is called “Phra Arahant -- Sammasambuddha” (“Enlightened by his own efforts”).
2. The teachings of the Buddha:
This is the second way Buddhism can be defined. The Lord Buddha’s teachings are beneficial in three ways, depending on which of these fit your particular character:
a) Beneficial for this life.
b) Beneficial for the next life.
c) Beneficial for the highest good, or nibbana, which ends suffering.
An example of a) above is the sutta-teaching about not getting angry.
The Buddha taught nonhatred. “Don’t hurt your mind”, said the Buddha. Anger only hurts you, not the other person.
An example of b) above are the teachings concerning morality and the practice of concentration development, in meditation.
Regarding c) above the Buddha taught the way to reach nibbana – the kind of happiness that does not turn into suffering anymore, where happiness and suffering are mixed.
In this essay we will only discuss nibbana to end suffering. The real suffering is the Five Aggregates, or body and mind (rupa and nama). When the Five Aggregates are extinguished completely, final, or complete nibbana is reached. An example of this is the Lord Buddha and the fully-enlightened ones (arahants) of the Buddha’s time. They will never be reborn again to experience suffering.
And what way did the Lord Buddha teach to end suffering?
He taught morality, concentration, and wisdom (clear comprehension) in the Eight-Fold Path.
Why must it be morality, concentration, and wisdom in the Eight-Fold Path?
Because these three elements when they are in the Eight-Fold Path are the Middle Way, which is necessary to reach the Four Noble Truths.
The Eight-Fold Path is called the Middle Way, and is the “one and the only way” to reach the Four Noble Truths and end suffering.
The Middle Way means avoidance of the two extremes of sensual in- dulgence and self-mortification that the Buddha found among Hindu yogis in his day. These yogis thought self-mortification would destroy desire and self-indulgence would destroy hatred. The Middle Way also means avoiding like or dislike.
What is the benefit of realizing the Four Noble Truths?
The benefit is the end of suffering. This is done when the Path moment that has nibbana as its object erases all remaining defilement and ends suffering (4th Path). Nibbana is very happy because there is no rebirth.
What do you mean by very happy?
The kind of happiness that does not turn into suffering anymore, like mundane happiness. The Lored Buddha said, “Nibbana is very happy”
How does happiness come about?
Because nibbana has no Five Aggregates. The Five Aggregates are the real truth of suffering (dukkhasacca). If you don’t have the Five Aggregates, you don’t have any suffering – such as old age, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, etc. That’s why nibbana is happy. It’s not like the mundane world, where happiness and suffering are mixed. Nibbana is the highest good in Buddhism.
Morality , concentration , and wisdom comprise the Eight-Fold Path.
Which comes first? Should we practice morality until we are purified, and realize concentration and wisdom later?
Morality, concentration, and wisdom in the Eight-Fold Path have to go together not just one at a time. It’s like a pill with three ingredients: we take them all at once. Concentration-type meditation is peaceful, with rapture – especially for the one who reaches absorption (very high state of concentra- tion). It is very happy. So why do we say only nibbana is happy?
While concentration-type meditation is wholesome and it destroys mental defilements (hindrances), it is just temporatily peaceful, lasting only as long as the hindrances are suppressed. The happiness depends on the level of absorption.
But that happiness is still in the wheel of suffering.
Meditation to reach absorption existed before the Lord Buddha. The Lord Buddha practiced this concentration meditation until he reached the highest absorption (the eighth) but he realized that absorption could not destroy hidden defilements. Then he found the Eight-Fold Path and realized the Four Noble Truths – and thus, enlightenment. He then said, “This is my last life”. And so, because enlightenment (nibbana) extinguishes defilement and hence suffering – and ends the round of rebirth – we say only nibbana is happy.
In all the world’s philosophies, wisdom that ends suffering is found only in Buddhism. How can we prove this? The Eight-Fold Path, properly followed, destroys defilements that are the cause of suffering. Defilements can only be destroyed with wisdom.
When practice is perfect, wisdom develops and that wisdom (insight or vipassana wisdom) destroys defilement. only Buddhism can completely destroy defilement – i.e. reach nibbana. This is proof that the practice of the Eight-fold Path develops wisdom.
The last questions have to do with the important subject of nibbana.
a) What is nibbana?
b) Where is nibbana?
c) How are you going to see nibbana? (That is, if you believe nibbana exists.)
These are good questions to ask, because all Buddhists want to end suffering. To end suffering you have to reach nibbana. We will answer these questions briefly, but when you practice successfully, you will understand better.
a) What is Nibbana?
Nibbana is the object of a brief path-moment. Nibbana is ultimate reality, or the true state of the nature of things. This path-moment that has nibbana as an object, extinguishes defilement and ends suffering. Suffering is ‘us’ (nama-rupa). If there is no ‘us (nama-rupa) there is no suffering such as old age, sickness, and death, etc, -- because there are no Five Aggregates in the state of nibbana. The Five Aggregates are the real suffering (dukkhasacca).
Each of us is composed of these five Aggregates: body, feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness. Or more simply, these Five Aggre-gates are body (Rupa) and mind (nama): (The last four of the above five are mind.) The Five Aggregates are the truth of suffering (dukkha-sacca, or 1st Noble Truth). Dukkha-sacca exists but we generally don’t see it. It is caused by defilement (craving) and that defilement creates us. That defilement that creates us stays with us a long time – unless something is done about it.
b) Where is nibbana?
Nibbana is not a place. It’s not anywhere. Nobody, not even one who has superpower can tell where nibbana is. Nibbana is not in heaven; it is like the wind; you only know it by its effects. Nibbana is the object of a very special path moment. It is a mind object of this path moment.
The ordinary person is saturated in defilement, but when he does vipassana practice and vipassana wisdom occurs, his mind becomes purified. This is called path moment and path fruition. These two have nibbana as an object (the 14th and 15th of the 16 vipassana know ledges = nana or ‘yanas’ in Thai).
Nibbana is not mind. It’s just the object of mind. When vipassana wisdom is very strong, the mind of the ordinary person changes to the mind of the Noble one. This change is called path moment. It is followed imme-diately by path fruition. Both have nibbana as their object. When the cause of suffering is extinguished, suffering (the result) is extinguished by the particular path moment for that path. The four paths to enlightenment are stream-winner, once returner, non-returner, and fully-enlightened or Perfect one (the Arahant). There are ten fetters keeping us from full enlightenment:
1) Wrong view of self
2) Doubt about the Buddha’s teaching
3) Adherence to rites and rituals (These refer to any belief that any ceremony such as lighting incense or any ritual behaviour or worship can lead to nibbana.)
4) Sensual desire
6) Desire for fine material existence
7) Desire for immaterial existence (Fine material existence is an existence where there is still body. Immaterial existence is where there is only nama. So both of these fetters (6 and 7) refer to craving for types of heavenly existence.)
Thus, for the First Path, the stream-winner path-moment erases the first three fetters; for the Second Path, the once-returnee path-moment weakens the next two fetters; for the Third Path, the non-returnee path-moment erases the two weakened fetters; and for the Fourth Path, the arahatta path moment erases the five remaining fetters.
c) How are you going to see nibbana?
In order to see nibbana, you must practice the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (satipatthana) in the right way. If practiced correctly satipatthana is the only way to enlightenment. The Lord Buddha said: “Bhikkhus, this path (as laid down in the Mahasatipatthana Discourse) is the one and only way for the purification of beings.”
Satipatthana is the first of, and the foundation of, the Thirty-Seven Qualities Contributing to Enlightenment. And the Thirty-Seven Qualities lead to realizing the Four Noble Truths, as the Lord Buddha did. When the mind is purified of defilement, you will know by yourself – you won’t need anyone to tell you-because nibbana is the true nature (sabhava) and that is realized by yourself. In the monk’s chant, this is “Paccatan veditabbo vinnuhi” (“to be seen each man for himself”)»