33 Sermons on Nibbāna
Bhikkhu K. Đāṇananda
The present set of thirty-three sermons on the topic of Nibbāna were originally delivered between 1988 and 1991 as fortnightly lectures at Meetirigala Forest Monastery of Sri Lanka by the Venerable Bhikkhu K. Đāṇananda at the behest of the Venerable Mātara Sri Đāṇarāma Mahāthera. They combine deep insight into the Dhamma with academic erudition, being based on copious quotations from the Pāli discourses that alternate with illustrative similes and useful indications for meditation practice.
Index of Sermons:
MIND STILLED 01
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
"This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all preparations, the relinquishment of all assets, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction".
With the permission of the Most Venerable Great Preceptor and the assembly of the venerable meditative monks.
Recently we have had an occasion to listen to a series of sermons on Nibbāna and there have been differences of opinion regarding the interpretation of some deep suttas on Nibbāna in those sermons. And so the venerable Great Preceptor suggested to me that it would be useful to this group if I would give a set of sermons on Nibbāna, touching on those controversial points.
At first, for many reasons, I hesitated to accept this invitation for a serious task, but then, as the venerable Great Preceptor repeatedly encouraged me on this, I gave some thought as to how best I could set about doing it. And it occurred to me that it would be best if I could address these sermons directly to the task before us in this Nissarana Vanaya, and that is meditative attention, rather than dealing with those deep controversial suttas in academic isolation. And that is why I have selected the above quotation as the theme for the entire set of sermons, hoping that it would help create the correct atmosphere of meditative attention.
Etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
"This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all preparations, the relinquishment of all assets, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction".
This in fact is a meditation subject in itself, a kammaṭṭhāna. This is the reflection on the peace of Nibbāna, upasamānussati. So if we can successfully make use of this as both the heading and the theme of these sermons, we would be in a position to understand those six qualities of the Dhamma. We are told that the Dhamma is svākkhāta, that it is well-proclaimed, sandiṭṭhika, can be seen here and now, akālika, timeless, ehipassika, inviting one to come and see, opanayika, leading one onwards, paccattaṃ veditabbo vi˝˝ūhi, that it can be understood by the wise each one by himself.
This set of sermons would have fulfilled its purpose if it drives home the true significance of these six qualities of the Dhamma.
Now at the very outset I would like to say a few things by way of preparing the background and I do hope that this assembly would bear with me for saying certain things that I will be compelled to say in this concern. By way of background something has to be said as to why there are so many complications with regard to the meaning of some of the deep suttas on Nibbāna.
There is a popular belief that the commentaries are finally traceable to a miscellany of the Buddha word scattered here and there, as pakiṇṇakadesanā. But the true state of affairs seems to be rather different. Very often the commentaries are unable to say something conclusive regarding the meaning of deep suttas. So they simply give some possible interpretations and the reader finds himself at a loss to choose the correct one. Sometimes the commentaries go at a tangent and miss the correct interpretation. Why the commentaries are silent on some deep suttas is also a problem to modern day scholars. There are some historical reasons leading to this state of affairs in the commentaries.
In the Āṇisutta of the Nidānavagga in the Saṃyutta Nikāya we find the Buddha making certain prophetic utterances regarding the dangers that will befall the Sāsana in the future. It is said that in times to come, monks will lose interest in those deep suttas which deal with matters transcendental, that they would not listen to those suttas that have to do with the idea of emptiness, su˝˝atā. They would not think it even worthwhile learning or pondering over the meanings of those suttas:
Ye te suttantā tathāgatabhāsitā gambhīrā gambhīratthā lokuttarā su˝˝atappaṭisaṃyuttā, tesu bha˝˝amānesu na sussūssisanti na sotaṃ odahissanti na a˝˝ā cittaṃ upaṭṭhāpessanti na te dhamme uggahetabbaṃ pariyāpuṇitabbaṃ ma˝˝issanti.
There is also another historical reason that can be adduced. An idea got deeply rooted at a certain stage in the Sāsana history that what is contained in the Sutta Piṭaka is simply the conventional teaching and so it came to imply that there is nothing so deep in these suttas. This notion also had its share in the present lack of interest in these suttas. According to Manorathapūraṇī, the Aṅguttara commentary, already at an early stage in the Sāsana history of Sri Lanka, there had been a debate between those who upheld the precept and those who stood for realization. And it is said that those who upheld the precept won the day. The final conclusion was that, for the continuity of the Sāsana, precept itself is enough, not so much the realization.
Of course the efforts of the reciter monks of old for the preservation of the precept in the midst of droughts and famines and other calamitous situations are certainly praiseworthy. But the unfortunate thing about it was this: the basket of the Buddha word came to be passed on from hand to hand in the dark, so much so that there was the risk of some valuable things slipping out in the process.
Also there have been certain semantic developments in the commentarial period, and this will be obvious to anyone searching for the genuine Dhamma. It seems that there had been a tendency in the commentarial period to elaborate even on some lucid words in the suttas, simply as a commentarial requirement, and this led to the inclusion of many complicated ideas. By too much overdrawing in the commentaries, the deeper meanings of the Dhamma got obscured. As a matter of fact, the depth of the Dhamma has to be seen through lucidity, just as much as one sees the bottom of a tank only when the water is lucid.
Dve nāma kiṃ?
"What is the 'two'?"
"Name and form."
This is the second out of the ten questions Buddha had put to the Venerable sāmanera Sopāka who had attained Arahant-ship at the age of seven. It is like asking a child: "Can you count up to ten?" All the ten questions were deep, the tenth being on Arahant-ship. But of course Venerable Sopāka gave the right answer each time. Now it is the second question and its answer that we are concerned with here: nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca. In fact, this is a basic teaching in insight training.
It is obvious that nāma means 'name', and in the suttas also, nāma, when used by itself, means 'name'. However when we come to the commentaries we find some kind of hesitation to recognize this obvious meaning. Even in the present context, the commentary, Paramatthajotikā, explains the word 'name' so as to mean 'bending'. It says that all immaterial states are called nāma, in the sense that they bend towards their respective objects and also because the mind has the nature of inclination: Ārammaṇābhimukhaṃ namanato, cittassa ca natihetuto sabbampi arūpaṃ 'nāman'ti vuccati.
And this is the standard definition of nāma in Abhidhamma compendiums and commentaries. The idea of bending towards an object is brought in to explain the word nāma. It may be that they thought it too simple an interpretation to explain nāma with reference to 'name', particularly because it is a term that has to do with deep insight. However as far as the teachings in the suttas are concerned, nāma still has a great depth even when it is understood in the sense of 'name'.
Nāmaṃ sabbaṃ anvabhavi,
nāmā bhiyyo na vijjati,
"Name has conquered everything,
There is nothing greater than name,
All have gone under the sway
Of this one thing called name."
Also there is another verse of the same type, but unfortunately its original meaning is often ignored by the present day commentators:
yogam āyanti maccuno.
"Beings are conscious of what can be named,
They are established on the nameable,
By not comprehending the nameable things,
They come under the yoke of death."
All this shows that the word nāma has a deep significance even when it is taken in the sense of 'name'.
But now let us see whether there is something wrong in rendering nāma by 'name' in the case of the term nāma-rūpa. To begin with, let us turn to the definition of nāma-rūpa as given by the Venerable Sāriputta in the Sammādiṭṭhisutta of the Majjhima Nikāya.
Vedanā, sa˝˝ā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro - idaṃ vuccatāvuso, nāmaṃ; cattāri ca mahābhūtāni, catunna˝ca mahābhūtānaṃ upādāyarūpaṃ - idaṃ vuccatāvuso, rūpaṃ. Iti ida˝ca nāmaṃ ida˝ca rūpaṃ - idam vuccatāvuso nāma-rūpaṃ. "Feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention - this, friend, is called 'name'. The four great primaries and form dependent on the four great primaries - this, friend, is called 'form'. So this is 'name' and this is 'form' - this, friend, is called 'name-and-form'."
Well, this seems lucid enough as a definition but let us see, whether there is any justification for regarding feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention as 'name'. Suppose there is a little child, a toddler, who is still unable to speak or understand language. Someone gives him a rubber ball and the child has seen it for the first time. If the child is told that it is a rubber ball, he might not understand it. How does he get to know that object? He smells it, feels it, and tries to eat it, and finally rolls it on the floor. At last he understands that it is a plaything. Now the child has recognised the rubber ball not by the name that the world has given it, but by those factors included under 'name' in nāma-rūpa, namely feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention.
This shows that the definition of nāma in nāma-rūpa takes us back to the most fundamental notion of 'name', to something like its prototype. The world gives a name to an object for purposes of easy communication. When it gets the sanction of others, it becomes a convention.
While commenting on the verse just quoted, the commentator also brings in a bright idea. As an illustration of the sweeping power of name, he points out that if any tree happens to have no name attached to it by the world, it would at least be known as the 'nameless tree'. Now as for the child, even such a usage is not possible. So it gets to know an object by the aforesaid method. And the factors involved there, are the most elementary constituents of name.
Now it is this elementary name-and-form world that a meditator also has to understand, however much he may be conversant with the conventional world. But if a meditator wants to understand this name-and-form world, he has to come back to the state of a child, at least from one point of view. Of course in this case the equanimity should be accompanied by knowledge and not by ignorance. And that is why a meditator makes use of mindfulness and full awareness, satisampaja˝˝a, in his attempt to understand name-and-form.
Even though he is able to recognize objects by their conventional names, for the purpose of comprehending name-and-form, a meditator makes use of those factors that are included under 'name': feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention. All these have a specific value to each individual and that is why the Dhamma has to be understood each one by himself - paccattaṃ veditabbo. This Dhamma has to be realized by oneself. One has to understand one's own world of name-and-form by oneself. No one else can do it for him. Nor can it be defined or denoted by technical terms.
Now it is in this world of name-and-form that suffering is found. According to the Buddha, suffering is not out there in the conventional world of worldly philosophers. It is to be found in this very name-and-form world. So the ultimate aim of a meditator is to cut off the craving in this name-and-form. As it is said: acchecchi taṇhaṃ idha nāmarūpe.
Now if we are to bring in a simile to clarify this point, the Buddha is called the incomparable surgeon, sallakatto anuttaro. Also he is sometimes called taṇhāsallassa hantāraṃ, one who removes the dart of craving. So the Buddha is the incomparable surgeon who pulls out the poison-tipped arrow of craving.
We may say therefore that, according to the Dhamma, nāma-rūpa, or name-and-form, is like the wound in which the arrow is embedded. When one is wounded by a poison-tipped arrow, the bandage has to be put, not on the archer or on his bow-string, but on the wound itself. First of all the wound has to be well located and cleaned up. Similarly, the comprehension of name-and-form is the preliminary step in the treatment of the wound caused by the poison-tipped arrow of craving.
And it is for that purpose that a meditator has to pay special attention to those basic components of 'name' - feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention - however much he may be proficient in words found in worldly usage. It may even appear as a process of unlearning down to childlike simplicity. But of course, the equanimity implied there, is not based on ignorance but on knowledge.
We find ourselves in a similar situation with regard to the significance of rūpa in nāma-rūpa. Here too we have something deep, but many take nāma-rūpa to mean 'mind and matter'. Like materialists, they think there is a contrast between mind and matter. But according to the Dhamma there is no such rigid distinction. It is a pair that is interrelated and taken together it forms an important link in the chain of paṭicca samuppāda.
Rūpa exists in relation to 'name' and that is to say that form is known with the help of 'name'. As we saw above, that child got a first-hand knowledge of the rubber ball with the help of contact, feeling, perception, intention and attention. Now in the definition of 'form' as cattāri ca mahābhūtāni, catunna˝ca mahābhūtānaṃ upādāya rūpaṃ the four great primaries are mentioned because they constitute the most primary notion of 'form'. Just as much as feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention represent the most primary notion of 'name', conventionally so called, even so the four great primaries form the basis for the primary notion of 'form', as the world understands it.
It is not an easy matter to recognize these primaries. They are evasive like ghosts. But out of their interplay we get the perception of form, rūpasa˝˝ā. In fact what is called rūpa in this context is rūpasa˝˝ā. It is with reference to the behaviour of the four great elements that the world builds up its concept of form. Its perception, recognition and designation of form is in terms of that behaviour. And that behaviour can be known with the help of those members representing name.
The earth element is recognized through the qualities of hardness and softness, the water element through the qualities of cohesiveness and dissolution, the fire element through hotness and coolness, and the wind element through motion and inflation. In this way one gets acquainted with the nature of the four great primaries. And the perception of form, rūpasa˝˝ā, that one has at the back of one's mind, is the net result of that acquaintance. So this is nāma-rūpa. This is one's world. The relationship between rūpa and rūpasa˝˝ā will be clear from the following verse:
Yattha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca,
paṭighaṃ rūpasa˝˝ā ca,
etthesā chijjate jaṭā.
This is a verse found in the Jaṭāsutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. In that sutta we find a deity putting a riddle before the Buddha for solution:
Anto jaṭā bahi jaṭā,
jaṭāya jaṭitā pajā,
taṃ taṃ Gotama pucchāmi,
ko imaṃ vijaṭaye jaṭaṃ.
"There is a tangle within, and a tangle without,
The world is entangled with a tangle.
About that, oh Gotama, I ask you,
Who can disentangle this tangle?"
The Buddha answers the riddle in three verses, the first of which is fairly well known, because it happens to be the opening verse of the Visuddhimagga:
Sīle patiṭṭhāya naro sapa˝˝o,
cittaṃ pa˝˝a˝ca bhāvayaṃ,
ātāpī nipako bhikkhu,
so imaṃ vijaṭaye jataṃ.
This means that a wise monk, established in virtue, developing concentration and wisdom, being ardent and prudent, is able to disentangle this tangle. Now this is the second verse:
Yesaṃ rāgo ca doso ca,
avijjā ca virājitā,
tesaṃ vijaṭitā jaṭā.
"In whom lust, hate
And ignorance have faded away,
Those influx-free Arahants,
It is in them that the tangle is disentangled."
It is the third verse that is relevant to our topic.
Yattha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca,
paṭighaṃ rūpasa˝˝ā ca,
etthesā chijjate jaṭā.
"Where name and form
As well as resistance and the perception of form
Are completely cut off,
It is there that the tangle gets snapped."
The reference here is to Nibbāna. It is there that the tangle is disentangled.
The coupling of name-and-form with paṭigha and rūpasa˝˝ā in this context, is significant. Here paṭigha does not mean 'repugnance', but 'resistance'. It is the resistance which comes as a reaction to inert matter. For instance, when one knocks against something in passing, one turns back to recognize it. Sense reaction is something like that.
The Buddha has said that the worldling is blind until at least the Dhamma-eye arises in him. So the blind worldling recognizes an object by the very resistance he experiences in knocking against that object.
Paṭigha and rūpasa˝˝ā form a pair. Paṭigha is that experience of resistance which comes by the knocking against an object, and rūpasa˝˝ā, as perception of form, is the resulting recognition of that object. The perception is in terms of what is hard, soft, hot or cold. Out of such perceptions common to the blind worldlings, arises the conventional reality, the basis of which is the world.
Knowledge and understanding are very often associated with words and concepts, so much so that if one knows the name of a thing, one is supposed to know it. Because of this misconception the world is in a tangle. Names and concepts, particularly the nouns, perpetuate the ignorance in the world. Therefore insight is the only path of release. And that is why a meditator practically comes down to the level of a child in order to understand name and form. He may even have to pretend to be a patient in slowing down his movements for the sake of developing mindfulness and full awareness.
So we see that there is something really deep in nāma-rūpa, even if we render it as 'name-and-form'. There is an implicit connection with 'name' as conventionally so called, but unfortunately this connection is ignored in the commentaries, when they bring in the idea of 'bending' to explain the word 'name'. So we need not hesitate to render nāma-rūpa by 'name-and-form'. Simple as it may appear, it goes deeper than the worldly concepts of name and form.
Now if we are to summarise all what we have said in this connection, we may say: 'name' in 'name-and-form' is a formal name. It is an apparent name. 'Form' in 'name-and-form' is a nominal form. It is a form only in name.
We have to make a similar comment on the meaning of the word Nibbāna. Here too one can see some unusual semantic developments in the commentarial period. It is very common these days to explain the etymology of the word Nibbāna with the help of a phrase like: Vānasaṅkhātāya taṇhāya nikkhantattā. And that is to say that Nibbāna is so called because it is an exit from craving which is a form of weaving.
To take the element vāna in the word to mean a form of weaving is as good as taking nāma in nāma-rūpa as some kind of bending. It is said that craving is a kind of weaving in the sense that it connects up one form of existence with another and the prefix ni is said to signify the exit from that weaving.
But nowhere in the suttas do we get this sort of etymology and interpretation. On the other hand it is obvious that the suttas use the word Nibbāna in the sense of 'extinguishing' or 'extinction'. In fact this is the sense that brings out the true essence of the Dhamma.
For instance the Ratanasutta, which is so often chanted as a paritta, says that the Arahants go out like a lamp: Nibbanti dhīrā yathāyaṃ padīpo. "Those wise ones get extinguished even like this lamp."
The simile of a lamp getting extinguished is also found in the Dhātuvibhaṅgasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya. Sometimes it is the figure of a torch going out: Pajjotass'eva nibbānaṃ, vimokho cetaso ahu, "the mind's release was like the extinguishing of a torch."
The simile of the extinction of a fire is very often brought in as an illustration of Nibbāna and in the Aggivacchagottasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya we find the Buddha presenting it as a sustained simile, giving it a deeper philosophical dimension. Now when a fire burns, it does so with the help of firewood. When a fire is burning, if someone were to ask us: "What is burning?" - what shall we say as a reply? Is it the wood that is burning or the fire that is burning? The truth of the matter is that the wood burns because of the fire and the fire burns because of the wood. So it seems we already have here a case of relatedness of this to that, idappaccayatā. This itself shows that there is a very deep significance in the fire simile.
Nibbāna as a term for the ultimate aim of this Dhamma is equally significant because of its allusion to the going out of a fire. In the Asaṅkhatasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya as many as thirty-three terms are listed to denote this ultimate aim. But out of all these epithets, Nibbāna became the most widely used, probably because of its significant allusion to the fire. The fire simile holds the answer to many questions relating to the ultimate goal.
The wandering ascetic Vacchagotta, as well as many others, accused the Buddha of teaching a doctrine of annihilation: Sato sattassa ucchedaṃ vināsaṃ vibhavaṃ pa˝˝āpeti. Their accusation was that the Buddha proclaims the annihilation, destruction and non-existence of a being that is existent. And the Buddha answered them fairly and squarely with the fire simile.
"Now if a fire is burning in front of you dependent on grass and twigs as fuel, you would know that it is burning dependently and not independently, that there is no fire in the abstract. And when the fire goes out, with the exhaustion of that fuel, you would know that it has gone out because the conditions for its existence are no more."
As a sidelight to the depth of this argument it may be mentioned that the Pāli word upādāna used in such contexts has the sense of both 'fuel' as well as 'grasping', and in fact, fuel is something that the fire grasps for its burning. Upādānapaccayā bhavo, "dependent on grasping is existence". These are two very important links in the doctrine of dependent arising, paṭicca samuppāda.
The eternalists, overcome by the craving for existence, thought that there is some permanent essence in existence as a reality. But what had the Buddha to say about existence? He said that what is true for the fire is true for existence as well. That is to say that existence is dependent on grasping. So long as there is a grasping, there is an existence. As we saw above, the firewood is called upādāna because it catches fire. The fire catches hold of the wood, and the wood catches hold of the fire. And so we call it firewood. This is a case of a relation of this to that, idappaccayatā. Now it is the same with what is called 'existence', which is not an absolute reality.
Even in the Vedic period there was the dilemma between 'being' and 'non-being'. They wondered whether being came out of non-being, or non-being came out of being. Katham asataḥ sat jāyeta, "How could being come out of non-being?" In the face of this dilemma regarding the first beginnings, they were sometimes forced to conclude that there was neither non-being nor being at the start, nāsadāsīt no sadāsīt tadānīm. Or else in the confusion they would sometimes leave the matter unsolved, saying that perhaps only the creator knew about it.
All this shows what a lot of confusion these two words sat and asat, being and non-being, had created for the philosophers. It was only the Buddha who presented a perfect solution, after a complete reappraisal of the whole problem of existence. He pointed out that existence is a fire kept up by the fuel of grasping, so much so that, when grasping ceases, existence ceases as well.
In fact the fire simile holds the answer to the tetralemma included among the ten unexplained points very often found mentioned in the suttas. It concerns the state of the Tathāgata after death, whether he exists, does not exist, both or neither. The presumption of the questioner is that one or the other of these four must be and could be answered in the affirmative.
The Buddha solves or dissolves this presumptuous tetralemma by bringing in the fire simile. He points out that when a fire goes out with the exhaustion of the fuel, it is absurd to ask in which direction the fire has gone. All that one can say about it, is that the fire has gone out: Nibbuto tveva saṅkhaṃ gacchati, "it comes to be reckoned as 'gone out'."
It is just a reckoning, an idiom, a worldly usage, which is not to be taken too literally. So this illustration through the fire simile drives home to the worldling the absurdity of his presumptuous tetralemma of the Tathāgata.
In the Upasīvasutta of the Pārāyaṇavagga of the Sutta Nipāta we find the lines:
Accī yathā vātavegena khitto,
atthaṃ paleti na upeti saṅkhaṃ,
"Like the flame thrown out by the force of the wind
Reaches its end, it cannot be reckoned."
Here the reckoning is to be understood in terms of the four propositions of the tetralemma. Such reckonings are based on a total misconception of the phenomenon of fire.
It seems that the deeper connotations of the word Nibbāna in the context of paṭicca samuppāda were not fully appreciated by the commentators. And that is why they went in search of a new etymology. They were too shy of the implications of the word 'extinction'. Probably to avoid the charge of nihilism they felt compelled to reinterpret certain key passages on Nibbāna. They conceived Nibbāna as something existing out there in its own right. They would not say where, but sometimes they would even say that it is everywhere. With an undue grammatical emphasis they would say that it is on coming to that Nibbāna that lust and other defilements are abandoned: Nibbānaṃ āgamma rāgādayo khīṇāti ekameva nibbānaṃ rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo ti vuccati.
But what do we find in the joyous utterances of the theras and therīs who had realized Nibbāna? As recorded in such texts as Thera- and Therī-gāthā they would say: Sītibhūto'smi nibbuto, "I am grown cool, extinguished as I am." The words sītibhūta and nibbuta had a cooling effect even to the listener, though later scholars found them inadequate.
Extinction is something that occurs within an individual and it brings with it a unique bliss of appeasement. As the Ratanasutta says: Laddhā mudhā nibbutiṃ bhu˝jamānā, "they experience the bliss of appeasement won free of charge." Normally, appeasement is won at a cost, but here we have an appeasement that comes gratis.
From the worldly point of view 'extinction' means annihilation. It has connotations of a precipice that is much dreaded. That is why the commentators conceived of it as something out there, on reaching which the defilements are abandoned, nibbānaṃ āgamma rāgādayo khīṇāti. Sometimes they would say that it is on seeing Nibbāna that craving is destroyed.
There seems to be some contradiction in the commentarial definitions of Nibbāna. On the one hand we have the definition of Nibbāna as the exit from craving, which is called a 'weaving'. And on the other it is said that it is on seeing Nibbāna that craving is destroyed. To project Nibbāna into a distance and to hope that craving will be destroyed only on seeing it, is something like trying to build a staircase to a palace one cannot yet see. In fact this is a simile which the Buddha had used in his criticism of the Brahmin's point of view.
In the Dhammacakkappavattanasutta we have a very clear statement of the third noble truth. Having first said that the second noble truth is craving, the Buddha goes on to define the third noble truth in these words: Tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodho cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti anālayo.
This is to say that the third noble truth is the complete fading away, cessation, giving up, relinquishment of that very craving. That it is the release from and non-attachment to that very craving. In other words it is the destruction of this very mass of suffering which is just before us.
In the suttas the term taṇhakkhayo, the destruction of craving, is very often used as a term for Nibbāna. But the commentator says that destruction alone is not Nibbāna: Khayamattaṃ na nibbānaṃ. But the destruction of craving itself is called the highest bliss in the following verse of the Udāna:
Ya˝ca kāmasukhaṃ loke,
yaṃ c'idaṃ diviyaṃ sukhaṃ,
kalaṃ n'agghanti soḷasiṃ.
"Whatever bliss from sense-desires there is in the world,
Whatever divine bliss there is,
All these are not worth one-sixteenth
Of the bliss of the destruction of craving."
Many of the verses found in the Udāna are extremely deep and this is understandable, since udāna means a 'joyous utterance'. Generally a joyous utterance comes from the very depths of one's heart, like a sigh of relief. As a matter of fact one often finds that the concluding verse goes far deeper in its implications than the narrative concerned. For instance, in the Udapānasutta, we get the following joyous utterance, coming from the Buddha himself:
Kiṃ kayirā udapānena,
āpā ce sabbadā siyuṃ,
taṇhāya mūlato chetvā,
kissa pariyesanaṃ care.
"What is the use of a well,
If water is there all the time,
Having cut craving at the root,
In search of what should one wander?"
This shows that the destruction of craving is not a mere destruction.
Craving is a form of thirst and that is why Nibbāna is sometimes called pipāsavinayo, the dispelling of the thirst. To think that the destruction of craving is not sufficient is like trying to give water to one who has already quenched his thirst. But the destruction of craving has been called the highest bliss. One who has quenched his thirst for good, is aware of that blissful experience. When he sees the world running here and there in search of water, he looks within and sees the well-spring of his bliss.
However to most of our scholars the term taṇhakkhaya appeared totally negative and that is why they hesitated to recognize its value. In such conventional usages as Nibbānaṃ āgamma they found a grammatical excuse to separate that term from Nibbāna.
According to the Buddha the cessation of existence is Nibbāna and that means Nibbāna is the realization of the cessation of existence. Existence is said to be an eleven-fold fire. So the entire existence is a raging fire. Lust, hate, delusion - all these are fires. Therefore Nibbāna may be best rendered by the word 'extinction'. When once the fires are extinguished, what more is needed?
But unfortunately Venerable Buddhaghosa was not prepared to appreciate this point of view. In his Visuddhimagga as well as in the commentaries Sāratthappakāsinī and Sammohavinodanī, he gives a long discussion on Nibbāna in the form of an argument with an imaginary heretic. Some of his arguments are not in keeping with either the letter or the spirit of the Dhamma.
First of all he gets the heretic to put forward the idea that the destruction of lust, hate and delusion is Nibbāna. Actually the heretic is simply quoting the Buddha word, for in the Nibbānasutta of the Asaṅkhatasaṃyutta the destruction of lust, hate and delusion is called Nibbāna: Rāgakkhayo, dosakkhayo, mohakkhayo - idaṃ vuccati nibbānaṃ.
The words rāgakkhaya, dosakkhaya and mohakkhaya together form a synonym of Nibbāna, but the commentator interprets it as three synonyms. Then he argues out with the imaginary heretic that if Nibbāna is the extinguishing of lust it is something common even to the animals, for they also extinguish their fires of lust through enjoyment of the corresponding objects of sense. This argument ignores the deeper sense of the word extinction, as it is found in the Dhamma.
In the Māgaṇḍiyasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya the Buddha gives the simile of a man with a skin disease sitting beside a pit of hot embers to explain the position of lustful beings in the world. That man is simply trying to assuage his pains by the heat of the fire. It is an attempt to warm up, not to cool down. Similarly what the lustful beings in the world are doing in the face of the fires of lust is a warming up. It can in no way be compared to the extinction and the cooling down of the Arahants.
As the phrase nibbutiṃ bhu˝jamānā implies, that extinction is a blissful experience for the Arahants. It leaves a permanent effect on the Arahant, so much so that upon reflection he sees that his influxes are extinct, just as a man with his hands and feet cut off, knows upon reflection that his limbs are gone. It seems that the deeper implications of the word Nibbāna have been obscured by a set of arguments which are rather misleading.
In fact I came forward to give these sermons for three reasons: Firstly because the venerable Great Preceptor invited me to do so. Secondly in the hope that it will be of some benefit to my co-dwellers in the Dhamma. And thirdly because I myself felt rather concerned about the inadequacy of the existing interpretations.
What we have said so far is just about the word Nibbāna as such. Quite a number of suttas on Nibbāna will be taken up for discussion. This is just a preamble to show that the word Nibbāna in the sense of 'extinction' has a deeper dimension, which has some relevance to the law of dependent arising, paṭicca samuppāda.
By bringing in an etymology based on the element vāna, much of the original significance of the word Nibbāna came to be undermined. On quite a number of occasions the Buddha has declared that the cessation of suffering is Nibbāna, or else that the destruction of craving is Nibbāna. Terms like dukkhanirodho and taṇhakkhayo have been used as synonyms. If they are synonyms, there is no need to make any discrimination with regard to some of them, by insisting on a periphrastic usage like āgamma.
Yet another important aspect of the problem is the relation of Nibbāna to the holy life or brahmacariya. It is said that when the holy life is lived out to the full, it culminates in Nibbāna.
In the Rādhasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya we find the Venerable Rādha putting a series of questions to the Buddha to get an explanation. First of all he asks:
Sammādassanaṃ pana, bhante, kimatthiyaṃ? "For what purpose is right vision?" And the Buddha gives the answer: Sammādassanaṃ kho, Rādha, nibbidatthaṃ, "Rādha, right vision is for purposes of disgust or dejection". And that is to say, disgust for saṃsāra.
The next question is: for what purpose is disgust? And the Buddha answers: disgust is for dispassion. What is the purpose of dispassion? The purpose of dispassion is release. What is the purpose of release? The purpose of release is Nibbāna. Last of all Venerable Rādha puts the question:
Nibbānaṃ pana, bhante, kimatthiyaṃ? "For what purpose is Nibbāna?" And the Buddha gives this answer: Accasarā, Rādha, pa˝haṃ, nāsakkhi pa˝hassa pariyantaṃ gahetuṃ. Nibbānogadha˝hi, Rādha, brahmacariyaṃ vussati, nibbānaparāyanaṃ nibbānapariyosānaṃ. "Rādha, you have gone beyond the scope of your questions, you are unable to grasp the limit of your questions. For, Rādha, the holy life is merged in Nibbāna, its consummation is Nibbāna, its culmination is Nibbāna."
This shows that the holy life gets merged in Nibbāna, just as rivers get merged in the sea. In other words, where the holy life is lived out to the full, Nibbāna is right there. That is why Venerable Nanda, who earnestly took up the holy life encouraged by the Buddha's promise of heavenly nymphs, attained Arahant-hood almost in spite of himself. At last he approached the Buddha and begged to relieve him of the onus of his promise. This shows that when one completes the training in the Holy Life, one is already in Nibbāna. Only when the training is incomplete, can one go to heaven.
Here, then, is a result which comes of its own accord. So there is no justification for a periphrastic usage like, "on reaching Nibbāna". No glimpse of a distant object is necessary. At whatever moment the Noble Eightfold Path is perfected, one attains Nibbāna then and there. Now, in the case of an examination, after answering the question paper, one has to wait for the results - to get a pass.
Here it is different. As soon as you have answered the paper correctly, you have passed im-mediately and the certificate is already there. This is the significance of the term a˝˝ā used in such contexts. A˝˝ā stands for full certitude of the experience of Nibbāna.
The experience of the fruit of Arahant-ship gives him the final certificate of his attainment, a˝˝āphalo. That is why Nibbāna is called something to be realized. One gets the certitude that birth is extinct and that the holy life is lived out to the full, khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ.
Of course there are some who still go on asking: what is the purpose of Nibbāna? And it is to answer this type of question that many scholars go on hair splitting. Normally in the world, whatever one does has some purpose or other. All occupations, all trades and businesses, are for gain and profit. Thieves and burglars also have some purpose in mind. But what is the purpose of trying to attain Nibbāna? What is the purpose of Nibbāna? Why should one attain Nibbāna?
It is to give an answer to this question that scholars brought in such phrases as Nibbānaṃ pana āgamma, 'on reaching Nibbāna'. They would say that 'on reaching Nibbāna', craving would be destroyed. On closer analysis it would appear that there is some fallacy in this question. For if there is any aim or purpose in attaining Nibbāna, Nibbāna would not be the ultimate aim. In other words, if Nibbāna is the ultimate aim, there should be no aim in attaining Nibbāna. Though it may well sound a tautology, one has to say that Nibbāna is the ultimate aim for the simple reason that there is no aim beyond it.
However, this might need more explanation. Now as far as craving is concerned, it has the nature of projection or inclination. It is something bent forward, with a forward view, and that is why it is called bhavanetti, the leader in becoming. It leads one on and on in existence, like the carrot before the donkey. So that is why all objects presented by craving have some object or purpose as a projection. Craving is an inclination.
But what is the position if one makes the destruction of craving itself one's object? Now craving because of its inclining nature is always bent forward, so much so that we get an infinite progression. This is for that, and that is for the other. As the phrase taṇhā ponobhavikā implies, craving brings up existence again and again.
But this is not the case when one makes the destruction of craving one's aim. When that aim is attained, there is nothing more to be done. So this brings us to the conclusion that the term taṇhakkhayo, destruction of craving, is a full-fledged synonym of Nibbāna.
Well, this much is enough for today. Time permitting and life permitting, I hope to continue with these sermons. I suppose the most Venerable Great Preceptor made this invitation with the idea of seeing one of his children at play. For good or for bad, I have taken up the invitation. Let the future of the Sāsana be the final judge of its merits.
MIND STILLED 02
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
"This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all preparations, the relinquishment of all assets, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction".
With the permission of the Most Venerable Great Preceptor and the assembly of the venerable meditative monks.
The second sermon on Nibbāna has come up for today. Towards the end of our sermon the other day we raised the point: Why is it improper to ask such questions as: 'What is the purpose of Nibbāna? Why should one attain Nibbāna?' Our explanation was that since the holy life or the Noble Eightfold Path has Nibbāna as its ultimate aim, since it gets merged in Nibbāna, any questions as to the ultimate purpose of Nibbāna would be inappropriate.
In fact at some places in the canon we find the phrase anuttara brahmacariyapariyosāna used with reference to Nibbāna. It means that Nibbāna is the supreme consummation of the holy life. The following standard phrase announcing a new Arahant is very often found in the suttas:
Yassatthāya kulaputtā sammadeva agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajanti, tadanuttaraṃ brahmcariyapariyosānaṃ diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhi˝˝ā sacchikatvā upasampajja vihāsi. "In this very life he realized by his own higher knowledge and attained to that supreme consummation of the holy life for the purpose of which clansmen of good family rightly go forth from home to homelessness."
Now what is the justification for saying that one attains to Nibbāna by the very completion of the holy life? This Noble Eightfold Path is a straight path: Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā. "This path is called the 'straight' and the direction it goes is called the 'fearless'." In the Itivuttaka we come across a verse which expresses this idea more vividly:
khayasmiṃ paṭhamaṃ ˝āṇaṃ,
tato a˝˝ā anantarā.
"To the learner, learning
In pursuit of the straight path,
First comes the knowledge of destruction
And then immediately the certitude."
It is the fruit of Arahant-ship which gives him the certitude of the attainment of Nibbāna.
Here the word anantarā has been used. That concentration proper to the fruit of Arahant-ship is called ānantarikā samādhi. This means that the attainment of the fruit is immediate.
Though it may be so in the case of the Arahant, what about the stream-winner, the sotāpanna, one may ask. There is a general belief that in the case of a sotāpanna the vision of Nibbāna is like a glimpse of a distant lamp on a road with many bends and the sotāpanna has just negotiated the first bend.
But in accordance with the Dhamma it may be said that the norm of immediacy is applicable even to the knowledge of the first path. One who attains to the fruit of stream-winning may be a beggar, an illiterate person, or a seven year old child. It may be that he has heard the Dhamma for the first time. All the same, a long line of epithets is used with reference to him in the suttas as his qualifications: Diṭṭhadhammo pattadhammo viditadhammo pariyogāḷhadhammo tiṇṇavicikiccho vigatakathaṃkatho vesārajjappatto aparappaccayo satthusāsane.
Diṭṭhadhammo, he is one who has seen the Dhamma, the truth of Nibbāna. It is said in the Ratanasutta that along with the vision of the first path, three fetters are abandoned, namely sakkāyadiṭṭhi, the self-hood view, vicikicchā, sceptical doubt, and sīlabbataparāmāsa, attachment to holy vows and ascetic practices. Some might argue that only these fetters are abandoned at this stage, because it is a glimpse of Nibbāna from a distance. But then there is this second epithet, pattadhammo, which means that he has reached the Dhamma, that he has arrived at Nibbāna. Not only that, he is viditadhammo, he is one who has understood the Dhamma, which is Nibbāna. He is pariyogāḷhadhammo, he has plunged into the Dhamma, he has dived into the Dhamma, which is Nibbāna. He is tiṇṇavicikiccho, he has crossed over doubts. Vigatakathaṃkatho, his waverings are gone. Vesārajjappatto, he has attained to proficiency. Aparappaccayo satthusāsane, in regard to the dispensation of the teacher he is not dependent on others. And that is to say that he could attain to Nibbāna even without another's help, though of course with the teacher's help he would attain it sooner.
So this string of epithets testifies to the efficacy of the realization by the first path. It is not a mere glimpse of Nibbāna from a distance. It is a reaching, an arrival or a plunge into Nibbāna. For purposes of illustration we may bring in a legend connected with the history of Sri Lanka. It is said that when King Gajabāhu invaded India, one of his soldiers, Nīla, who had Herculean strength, parted the seawater with a huge iron bar in order to make way for the king and the army. Now when the supramundane path arises in the mind the power of thought is as mighty as the blow of Nīla with his iron bar. Even with the first blow the sea-water parted, so that one could see the bottom. Similarly the sweeping influxes are parted for a moment when the transcendental path arises in a mind, enabling one to see the very bottom - Nibbāna. In other words, all preparations (saṅkhāras) are stilled for a moment, enabling one to see the cessation of preparations.
We have just given a simile by way of illustration, but incidentally there is a Dhammapada verse which comes closer to it:
Chinda sotaṃ parakkamma,
kāme panuda brāhmaṇa,
saṅkhārānaṃ khayaṃ ˝atvā,
"Strive forth and cut off the stream,
Discard, oh Brahmin, sense-desires,
Having known the destruction of preparations, oh Brahmin,
Become a knower of the un-made."
So this verse clearly indicates what the knowledge of the path does when it arises. Just as one leaps forward and cuts off a stream of water, so it cuts off, even for a moment, the preparations connected with craving. Thereby one realizes the destruction of preparations - saṅkhārānaṃ khayaṃ ˝atvā.
Like the sea water parted by the blow of the iron bar, preparations part for a moment to reveal the very bottom which is 'unprepared', the asaṅkhata. Akata, or the un-made, is the same as asaṅkhata, the unprepared. So one has had a momentary vision of the sea bottom, which is free from preparations. Of course, after that experience, influxes flow in again. But one kind of influxes, namely diṭṭhāsavā, influxes of views, are gone for good and will never flow in again.
Now how was it that some with keen wisdom like Bāhiya attained Arahant-ship even while listening to a short sermon from the Buddha? They had dealt four powerful blows in quick succession with the iron bar of the path-knowledge to clear away all possible influxes.
What is called akata or asaṅkhata, the un-made or the un-prepared, is not something out there in a distance, as an object of thought. It is not a sign to be grasped by one who wants to attain Nibbāna.
Language encourages us to think in terms of signs. Very often we find it difficult to get rid of this habit. The worldlings with their defilements have to communicate with each other and the structure of the language has to answer their needs. So the subject-object relationship has become a very significant feature in a language. It always carries the implication that there is a thing to be grasped and that there is someone who grasps, that there is a doer and a thing done. So it is almost impossible to avoid such usages as: 'I want to see Nibbāna, I want to attain Nibbāna'. We are made to think in terms of getting and attaining.
However sometimes the Buddha reminds us that this is only a conventional usage and that these worldly usages are not to be taken too seriously. We come across such an instance in the Sagāthavagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya where the Buddha retorts to some questions put by a certain deity. The deity named Kakudha asks the Buddha: "Do you rejoice, oh recluse?" And the Buddha retorts: "On getting what, friend?" Then the deity asks: "Then, recluse, do you grieve?" And the Buddha quips back: "On losing what, friend?" So the deity concludes: "Well then, recluse, you neither rejoice nor grieve!" And the Buddha replies: "That is so, friend."
It seems, then, that though we say we 'attain' Nibbāna there is nothing to gain and nothing to lose. If anything - what is lost is an ignorance that there is something, and a craving that there is not enough - and that is all one loses.
Now there are quite a number of synonyms for Nibbāna, such as akata and asaṅkhata. As already mentioned, there is even a list of thirty-three such epithets, out of which one is dīpa. Now dīpa means an island. When we are told that Nibbāna is an island, we tend to imagine some sort of existence in a beautiful island. But in the Pārāyanavagga of the Sutta Nipāta the Buddha gives a good corrective to that kind of imagining in his reply to a question put by the Brahmin youth Kappa, a pupil of Bāvarī. Kappa puts his question in the following impressive verse:
Majjhe sarasmiṃ tiṭṭhataṃ,
oghe jāte mahabbhaye,
dīpaṃ pabrūhi mārisa,
tva˝ca me dīpam akkhāhi,
yathayidaṃ nāparaṃ siyā.
"Unto them that stand midstream,
When the frightful floods flow forth,
To them in decay-and-death forlorn,
An island, sire, may you proclaim.
An island which non else excels,
Yea, such an isle, pray tell me sire."
And the Buddha gives his answer in two inspiring verses:
Majjhe sarasmiṃ tiṭṭhataṃ,
oghe jāte mahabbhaye,
dīpaṃ pabrūmi Kappa te.
etaṃ dīpaṃ anāparaṃ,
nibbānaṃ iti naṃ brūmi,
"Unto them that stand midstream,
When the frightful floods flow forth,
To them in decay-and-death forlorn,
An island, Kappa, I shall proclaim.
Owning naught, grasping naught,
The isle is this, none else besides.
Nibbāna, that is how I call that isle,
Wherein is decay decayed and death is dead."
Aki˝canaṃ means 'owning nothing', anādānaṃ means 'grasping nothing'. Etaṃ dīpaṃ anāparaṃ, this is the island, nothing else. Nibbānaṃ iti naṃ brūmi, jarāmaccuparikkhayaṃ, "and that I call Nibbāna, which is the extinction of decay-and-death."
From this also we can infer that words like akata, asaṅkhata and sabba-saṅkhārā-samatha are full fledged synonyms of Nibbāna. Nibbāna is not some mysterious state quite apart from them. It is not something to be projected into a distance.
Some are in the habit of getting down to a discussion on Nibbāna by putting saṅkhata on one side and asaṅkhata on the other side. They start by saying that saṅkhata, or the 'prepared', is anicca, or impermanent. If saṅkhata is anicca, they conclude that asaṅkhata must be nicca, that is the unprepared must be permanent. Following the same line of argument they argue that since saṅkhata is dukkha, asaṅkhata must be sukha. But when they come to the third step, they get into difficulties. If saṅkhata is anattā, or not-self, then surely asaṅkhata must be attā, or self. At this point they have to admit that their argument is too facile and so they end up by saying that after all Nibbāna is something to be realized.
All this confusion arises due to a lack of understanding of the law of Dependent Arising, paṭicca samuppāda. Therefore, first of all, we have to say something about the doctrine of paṭicca samuppāda.
According to the Ariyapariyesanasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya, the Buddha, soon after his enlightenment, reflected on the profundity of the Dhamma and was rather disinclined to preach it. He saw two points in the doctrine that are difficult for the world to see or grasp. One was paṭicca samuppāda:
Duddasaṃ idaṃ ṭhānaṃ yadidaṃ idappaccayatā paṭiccasamuppādo. "Hard to see is this point, namely dependent arising which is a relatedness of this to that." And the second point was Nibbāna: Idampi kho ṭhānaṃ duddasaṃ yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ. "And this point, too, is difficult to see, namely the stilling of all preparations, the relinquishment of all assets, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction."
From this context we can gather that if there is any term we can use to define paṭicca samuppāda, a term that comes closer to it in meaning, it is idappaccayatā. The Buddha himself has described paṭicca samuppāda in this context as a relatedness of this to that, idappaccayatā. As a matter of fact the basic principle which forms the noble norm of this doctrine of dependent arising is this idappaccayatā. Let us now try to get at its meaning by examining the doctrine of paṭicca samuppāda.
In quite a number of contexts, such as the Bahudhātukasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya and the Bodhivagga of the Udāna the law of paṭicca samuppāda is set out in the following manner:
Iti imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti,
imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati
imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti,
imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati -
yadidaṃ avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā, saṅkhārapaccayā vi˝˝āṇaṃ, vi˝˝āṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṃ, nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṃ, saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā taṇhā, taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
Avijjāyatveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho, saṅkhāranirodhā vi˝˝āṇanirodho, vi˝˝āṇanirodhā nāmarūpanirodho, nāmarūpanirodhā saḷāyatananirodho, saḷāyatananirodhā phassanirodho, phassanirodhā vedanānirodho, vedanānirodhā taṇhānirodho, taṇhānirodhā upādānanirodho, upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho, bhavanirodhā jātinirodho, jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā nirujjhanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti.
"Thus: -This being - this comes to be
With the arising of this - this arises
This not being - this does not come to be
With the cessation of this - this ceases.
- and that is to say, dependent on ignorance, preparations come to be; dependent on preparations, consciousness; dependent on consciousness, name-and-form; dependent on name-and-form, the six sense-bases; dependent on the six sense-bases, contact; dependent on contact, feeling; dependent on feeling, craving; dependent on craving, grasping; dependent on grasping, becoming; dependent on becoming, birth; dependent on birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. Thus is the arising of this entire mass of suffering.
But with the complete fading away and cessation of ignorance, comes the cessation of preparations; with the cessation of preparations, the cessation of consciousness; with the cessation of consciousness, the cessation of name-and-form; with the cessation of name-and-form, the cessation of the six sense-bases; with the cessation of the six sense-bases, the cessation of contact; with the cessation of contact, the cessation of feeling; with the cessation of feeling, the cessation of craving; with the cessation of craving, the cessation of grasping; with the cessation of grasping, the cessation of becoming; with the cessation of becoming, the cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, the cessation of decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair cease to be. Thus is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering."
This is the thematic statement of the law of paṭicca samuppāda. It is set out here in the form of a fundamental principle. Imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti, "this being, this comes to be." Imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati, "with the arising of this, this arises." Imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, "this not being, this does not come to be". Imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati, "with the cessation of this, this ceases." It resembles an algebraical formula.
And then we have the conjunctive yadidaṃ, which means "namely this" or "that is to say". This shows that the foregoing statement is axiomatic and implies that what follows is an illustration. So the twelve linked formula beginning with the words avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā is that illustration. No doubt the twelve-linked formula is impressive enough. But the important thing here is the basic principle involved, and that is the fourfold statement beginning with imasmiṃ sati.
This fact is very clearly brought out in a certain sutta in the Nidānavagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. There the Buddha addresses the monks and says:
Paṭiccasamuppāda˝ca vo, bhikkhave, desessāmi paṭiccasamuppanne ca dhamme. "Monks, I will teach you dependent arising and things that are dependently arisen."
In this particular context the Buddha makes a distinction between dependent arising and things that are dependently arisen. In order to explain what is meant by dependent arising, or paṭicca samuppāda, he takes up the last two links in the formula, in the words: jātipaccayā, bhikkhave, jarāmaraṇaṃ, "monks, dependent on birth is decay-and-death." Then he draws attention to the importance of the basic principle involved: Uppādā vā Tathāgatānaṃ anuppādā vā Tathāgatānaṃ, ṭhitā va sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā (etc.). Out of the long exhortation given there, this is the part relevant to us here.
Jātipaccayā, bhikkhave, jarāmaraṇaṃ, "dependent on birth, oh monks, is decay-and-death", and that is to say that decay-and-death has birth as its condition. Uppādā vā Tathāgatānaṃ anuppādā vā Tathāgatānaṃ, "whether there be an arising of the Tathāgatās or whether there be no such arising". ˛hitā va sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā, "that elementary nature, that orderliness of the Dhamma, that norm of the Dhamma, the relatedness of this to that does stand as it is."
So from this it is clear that the underlying principle could be understood even with the help of a couple of links. But the commentary seems to have ignored this fact in its definition of the term idappaccayatā. It says: Imesaṃ jarāmaraṇādīnaṃ paccayā idappaccayā, idappaccayāva idappaccayatā. The word imesaṃ is in the plural and this indicates that the commentator has taken the dependence in a collective sense. But it is because of the fact that even two links are sufficient to illustrate the law, that the Buddha follows it up with the declaration that this is the paṭicca samuppāda. And then he goes on to explain what is meant by 'things dependently arisen':
Katame ca, bhikkhave, paṭiccasamuppannā dhammā? Jarāmaraṇaṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ saṇkhataṃ paṭiccasamuppannaṃ khayadhammaṃ vayadhammaṃ virāgadhammaṃ nirodhadhammaṃ. "What, monks, are things dependently arisen?" And then, taking up just one of the last links, he declares: "decay-and-death, monks, is impermanent, prepared, dependently arisen, of a nature to get destroyed, to pass away, fade away and cease."
By the way, the word virāga usually means detachment or dispassion. But in such contexts as avijjāvirāgā and pītiyā ca virāgā one has to render it by words like 'fading away'. So that avijjāvirāga could be rendered as: 'by the fading away of ignorance', and pītiyā virāgā would mean 'by the fading away of joy'.
It seems, then, that decay-and-death themselves are impermanent, that they are prepared or made up, that they are dependently arisen. Decay-and-death themselves can get destroyed and pass away. Decay as well as death can fade away and cease.
Then the Buddha takes up the preceding link jāti, or birth. And that too is given the same qualifications. In the same manner he takes up each of the preceding links up to and including ignorance, avijjā, and applies to them the above qualifications. It is significant that every one of the twelve links, even ignorance, is said to be dependently arisen.
Let us try to understand how, for instance, decay-and-death themselves can get destroyed or pass away. Taking the idappaccayatā formula as a paradigm, we can illustrate the relationship between the two links birth and decay-and-death. Instead of saying: this being, that comes to be (and so forth), now we have to say: birth being, decay-and-death comes to be. With the arising of birth, decay-and-death arises. Birth not being, decay-and-death does not come to be. With the cessation of birth, decay-and-death ceases.
Now birth itself is an arising. But here we can't help saying that birth 'arises'. It is like saying that birth is born. How can birth get born? Similarly death is a passing away. But here we have to say that death itself 'passes away'. How can death pass away? Perhaps, as we proceed, we might get the answers to these questions.
Now at this point let us take up for discussion a certain significant passage in the MahāNidānasutta of the Dīgha Nikāya. In the course of an exposition of the law of paṭicca samuppāda, addressed to Venerable Ānanda, the Buddha makes the following statement:
Ettāvatā kho, Ānanda, jāyetha vā jīyetha vā mīyetha vā cavetha vā upapajjetha vā. Ettāvatā adhivacanapatho, ettāvatā niruttipatho, ettāvatā pa˝˝attipatho, ettāvatā pa˝˝āvacaraṃ, ettāvatā vaṭṭaṃ vattati itthattaṃ pa˝˝āpanāya yadidaṃ nāmarūpaṃ saha vi˝˝āṇena. "In so far only, Ānanda, can one be born, or grow old, or die, or pass away, or reappear, in so far only is there any pathway for verbal expression, in so far only is there any pathway for terminology, in so far only is there any pathway for designation, in so far only is the range of wisdom, in so far only is the round kept going for there to be a designation as the this-ness, that is to say: name-and-form together with consciousness."
We have rendered the term itthatta by 'this-ness', and what it means will become clear as we go on. In the above quotation the word ettāvatā, which means 'in so far only', has as its point of reference the concluding phrase yadidaṃ nāmarūpaṃ saha vi˝˝āṇena, "that is to say: name-and-form together with consciousness". So the statement, as it is, expresses a complete idea. But some editions have an additional phrase: a˝˝ama˝˝apaccayatā pavattati, "exists in a mutual relationship". This phrase is obviously superfluous and is probably a commentarial addition.
What is meant by the Buddha's statement is that name-and-form together with consciousness is the rallying point for all concepts of birth, decay, death and rebirth. All pathways for verbal expression, terminology and designation converge on name-and-form together with consciousness. The range of wisdom extends only up to the relationship between these two. And it is between these two that there is a whirling round so that one may point out a this-ness. In short, the secret of the entire saṃsāric existence is to be found in this whirlpool.
Vaṭṭa and āvaṭṭa are words used for a whirlpool. We shall be bringing up quotations in support of that meaning. It seems, however, that this meaning has got obscured in the course of time. In the commentaries and in some modern translations there is quite a lot of confusion with regard to the meaning of the phrase vaṭṭaṃ vattati. In fact one Sinhala translation renders it as 'saṃsāric rain'. What rain has to do with saṃsāra is a matter for conjecture. What is actually meant by vaṭṭaṃ vattati is a whirling round, and saṃsāra, even literally, is that. Here we are told that there is a whirling round between name-and-form and consciousness, and this is the saṃsāric whirlpool to which all the aforesaid things are traceable.
Already in the first sermon we tried to show that name in name-and-form has to do with names and concepts. Now from this context it becomes clear that all pathways for verbal expression, terminology and designation converge on this whirlpool between name-and-form and consciousness.
Now that we have attached so much significance to a whirlpool, let us try to understand how a whirlpool is formed. Let us try to get at the natural laws underlying its formation. How does a whirlpool come to be?
Suppose a river is flowing downward. To flow downward is in the nature of a river. But a certain current of water thinks: "I can and must move upstream." And so it pushes on against the main stream. But at a certain point its progress is checked by the main stream and is thrust aside, only to come round and make a fresh attempt, again and again. All these obstinate and unsuccessful attempts gradually lead to a whirling round. As time goes on, the run-away current understands, as it were, that it cannot move forward. But it does not give up. It finds an alternative aim in moving towards the bottom. So it spirals downward, funnel-like, digging deeper and deeper towards the bottom, until an abyss is formed. Here then we have a whirlpool.
While all this is going on, there is a crying need to fill up the chasm, and the whirlpool develops the necessary force of attraction to cater to it. It attracts and grasps everything that comes within its reach and sends it whirling down, funnel like, into the chasm. The whirling goes on at a tremendous speed, while the circumference grows larger and larger. At last the whirlpool becomes a centre of a tremendous amount of activity.
While this kind of activity is going on in a river or a sea, there is a possibility for us to point it out as 'that place' or 'this place'. Why? Because there is an activity going on. Usually, in the world, the place where an activity is going on is known as a 'unit', a 'centre', or an 'institution'. Since the whirlpool is also a centre of activity, we may designate it as a 'here' or 'there'. We may even personify it. With reference to it, we can open up pathways for verbal expression, terminology and designation.
But if we are to consider the form of activity that is going on here, what is it after all? It is only a perversion. That obstinate current thought to itself, out of delusion and ignorance: I can and must move upstream. And so it tried and failed, but turned round only to make the same vain attempt again and again. Ironically enough, even its progress towards the bottom is a stagnation.
So here we have ignorance on one side and craving on the other, as a result of the abyss formed by the whirlpool. In order to satisfy this craving there is that power of attraction: grasping. Where there is grasping, there is existence, or bhava. The entire whirlpool now appears as a centre of activity.
Now the basic principle underlying this whirlpool is to be found in our bodies. What we call 'breathing' is a continuous process of emptying and filling up. So even the so-called 'life-principle' is not much different from the activity of a whirlpool. The functioning of the lungs and the heart is based on the same principle and the blood circulation is in fact a whirling round. This kind of activity is very often known as 'automatic', a word which has connotations of self-sufficiency. But at the root of it there is a perversion, as we saw in the case of the whirlpool. All these activities are based on a conflict between two opposite forces.
In fact existence in its entirety is not much different from the conflict of that obstinate current of water with the main stream. This characteristic of conflict is so pervasive that it can be seen even in the basic laws governing the existence of a society. In our social life, rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. We can enjoy certain privileges, provided we fulfil our duties. So here too we have a tangle within and a tangle without.
Now this is about the existence of the society as such. And what about the field of economics? There too the basic principles show the same weakness. Production is governed by laws of supply and demand. There will be a supply so long as there is a demand. Between them there is a conflict. It leads to many complications. The price mechanism is on a precarious balance and that is why some wealthy countries are forced to the ridiculous position of dumping their surplus into the sea.
All this shows that existence is basically in a precarious position. To illustrate this, let us take the case of two snakes of the same size, trying to swallow up each other. Each of them tries to swallow up the other from the tail upwards and when they are half way through the meal, what do we find? A snake cycle. This snake cycle goes round and round, trying to swallow up each other. But will it ever be successful?
The precarious position illustrated by the snake cycle, we find in our own bodies in the form of respiration, blood circulation and so forth. What appears as the stability in the society and in the economy, is similarly precarious. It is because of this conflict, this unsatisfactoriness, that the Buddha concluded that the whole of existence is suffering.
When the arising aspect is taken too seriously, to the neglect of the cessation aspect, instead of a conflict or an unsatisfactoriness one tends to see something automatic everywhere. This body as well as machines such as water pumps and electrical appliances seem to work on an automatic principle. But in truth there is only a conflict between two opposing forces. When one comes to think of it, there is no 'auto'-ness even in the automatic.
All that is there, is a bearing up with difficulty. And this in fact is the meaning of the word dukkha. Duḥ stands for 'difficulty' and kha for 'bearing up'. Even with difficulty one bears it up, and though one bears it up, it is difficult.
Now regarding the question of existence we happened to mention that because of a whirlpool's activity, one can point out a 'here' with reference to it. We can now come back to the word itthattaṃ, which we left out without comment in the quotation ettāvatā vaṭṭaṃ vattati itthattaṃ pa˝˝āpanāya, "in so far only does the whirlpool whirl for the designation of an itthatta." Now what is this itthatta? Ittha means 'this', so itthattaṃ would mean 'this-ness'. The whirling of a whirlpool qualifies itself for a designation as a 'this'.
There are a couple of verses in the Dvayatānupassanāsutta of the Sutta Nipāta which bring out the meaning of this word more clearly:
Jāti maraṇa saṃsāraṃ,
ye vajanti punappunaṃ,
avijjāyeva sā gati.
Taṇhā dutiyo puriso,
dīgham addhāna saṃsāraṃ,
Ye jāti maraṇa saṃsāraṃ punappunaṃ vajanti, "they that go on again and again the round of birth and death". Itthabhāva˝˝athābhāvaṃ "which is a this-ness and an otherwise-ness", or "which is an alternation between a this-ness and an otherwise-ness". Sā gati avijjāya eva, "that going of them, that faring of them, is only a journey of ignorance." Taṇhā dutiyo puriso, "the man with craving as his second" (or his companion). Dīgham addhāna saṃsāraṃ, "faring on for a long time in saṃsāra". Itthabhāva˝˝athābhāvaṃ, saṃsāraṃ nātivattati, "does not get away from the round which is a this-ness and an otherwise-ness", or "which is an alternation between a this-ness and an otherwise-ness". What is meant by it, is the transcendence of saṃsāra.
We saw above how the concept of a 'here' arose with the birth of a whirlpool. In fact one's birth is at the same time the birth of a 'here' or 'this place'. And that is what is meant by itthabhāva in the two verses quoted above. Itthabhāva and itthatta both mean 'this-ness'. In both verses this 'this-ness' is coupled with an otherwise-ness, a˝˝athābhāva. Here too we see a conflict between two things, this-ness and otherwise-ness. The cycle of saṃsāra, represented by birth and death, jāti maraṇa saṃsāraṃ, is equivalent to an alternation between this-ness and otherwise-ness, itthabhāva˝˝athābhāva. And as the first verse says, this recurrent alternation between this-ness and otherwise-ness is nothing but a journey of ignorance itself.
Though we have given so much significance to the two terms itthabhāva and a˝˝athābhāva, the commentary to the Sutta Nipāta treats them lightly. It explains itthabhāvaṃ as imaṃ manussabhāvaṃ, which means "this state as a human being", and a˝˝athābhāvaṃ as ito avasesa a˝˝anikāyabhāvaṃ, "any state of being other than this". This explanation misses the deeper significance of the word itthatta.
In support of this we may refer to the Pāṭikasutta of the Dīgha Nikāya. There we are told that when the world system gets destroyed at the end of an aeon, some being or other gets reborn in an empty Brahma mansion, and after being there for a long time, thinks, out of a feeling of loneliness: Aho vata a˝˝epi sattā itthattaṃ āgaccheyyuṃ. "How nice it would be if other beings also come to this state". In this context the word itthatta refers to the Brahma world and not the human world. From the point of view of the Brahmas, itthatta refers to the Brahma world and only for us here, it means the human world.
However this is just a narrow meaning of the word itthatta. When the reference is to the entire round of existence or saṃsāra, itthatta does not necessarily mean 'this human world'. The two terms have a generic sense, because they represent some basic principle. As in the case of a whirlpool, this-ness is to be seen together with an otherwise-ness. This illustrates the conflict characteristic of existence. Wherever a this-ness arises, a possibility for an otherwise-ness comes in. Itthabhāva and a˝˝athābhāva go together.
Aniccatā, or impermanence, is very often explained with the help of the phrase vipariṇāma˝˝athābhāva. Now here too we have the word a˝˝athābhāva. Here the word preceding it, gives a clue to its true significance. Vipariṇāma is quite suggestive of a process of evolution. Strictly speaking, pariṇāma is evolution, and pariṇata is the fully evolved or mature stage. The prefix vi stands for the anti-climax. The evolution is over, now it is becoming other. Ironically enough, this state of 'becoming-other' is known as otherwise-ness, a˝˝athābhāva. And so this twin, itthabhāva and a˝˝athābhāva, tell us the nature of the world. Between them, they explain for us the law of impermanence.
In the Section-of-the-Threes in the Aṅguttara Nikāya the three characteristics of a saṅkhata are explained in this order: Uppādo pa˝˝āyati, vayo pa˝˝āyati, ṭhitassa a˝˝athattaṃ pa˝˝āyati, "an arising is manifest, a passing away is manifest and an otherwise-ness in the persisting is manifest."
This implies that the persistence is only apparent and that is why it is mentioned last. There is an otherwise-ness even in this apparently persistent. But later scholars preferred to speak of three stages as uppāda, ṭhiti, bhaṅga, "arising, persistence and breaking up". However the law of impermanence could be sufficiently understood even with the help of two words, itthabhāva and a˝˝athābhāva, this-ness and otherwise-ness. Very often we find the Buddha summing up the law of impermanence in the two words samudaya and vaya, "arising" and "passing away".
There is an apparent contradiction in the phrase ṭhitassa a˝˝athatta, but it reminds us of the fact that what the world takes as static or persisting is actually not so. The so-called 'static' is from beginning to end an otherwise-ness. Now if we are to relate this to the two links jāti and jarāmaraṇaṃ in paṭicca samuppāda, we may say that as soon as one is born the process of otherwise-ness sets in. Wherever there is birth, there is death. One of the traditional Pāli verses on the reflections on death has the following meaningful lines:
Uppattiyā sahevedaṃ, maraṇam āgataṃ sadā, "always death has come, even with the birth itself." Just as in a conjoined pair, when one is drawn the other follows, even so when birth is drawn in, decay-and-death follow as a matter of course.
Before the advent of the Buddha, the world believed in the possibility of a birth devoid of decay-and-death. It believed in a form of existence devoid of grasping. Because of its ignorance of the pair-wise relatedness of this-to-that, idappaccayatā, it went on with its deluded search. And that was the reason for all the conflict in the world.
According to the teaching of the Buddha, the concept of birth is equivalent to the concept of a 'here'. As a matter of fact, this birth of a 'here' is like the first peg driven for the measurement of a world. Because of the pair-wise relationship, the very first 'birthday-present' that one gets as soon as one is born, is - death. The inevitable death that he is entitled to. This way we can understand the deeper significance of the two words itthabhāva and a˝˝athābhāva, this-ness and otherwise-ness.
We have to say the same thing with regard to the whirlpool. Apparently it has the power to control, to hold sway. Seen from a distance, the whirlpool is a centre of activity with some controlling power. Now, one of the basic meanings of the concept of self is the ability to control, to hold sway. And a whirlpool too, as seen from a distance, seems to have this ability. Just as it appears automatic, so also it seems to have some power to control.
But on deeper analysis it reveals its not-self nature. What we have here is simply the conflict between the main stream and a run-away current. It is the outcome of the conflict between two forces and not the work of just one force. It is a case of relatedness of this-to-that, idappaccayatā. As one verse in the Bālavagga of the Dhammapada puts it:
Attā hi attano natthi, "even oneself is not one's own."
So even a whirlpool is not its own, there is nothing really automatic about it. This then is the dukkha, the suffering, the conflict, the unsatisfactoriness. What the world holds on to as existence is just a process of otherwise-ness, as the Buddha vividly portrays for us in the following verses of the Nandavagga of the Udāna.
Ayaṃ loko santāpajāto, phassapareto
rogaṃ vadati attato,
yena yena hi ma˝˝ati,
tato taṃ hoti a˝˝athā.
A˝˝athābhāvī bhavasatto loko,
bhavapareto bhavam evābhinandati,
yad'abhinandati taṃ bhayaṃ,
yassa bhāyati taṃ dukkhaṃ,
bhava vippahānāya kho panidaṃ brahmacariyaṃ vussati.
"This anguished world, fully given to contact,
Speaks of a disease as self.
In whatever terms it conceives of,
Even thereby it turns otherwise.
The world, attached to becoming,Given fully to becoming,
Though becoming otherwise, Yet delights in becoming.
What it delights in is a fear
What it fears from is a suffering.
But then this holy life is lived for the abandoning of that very becoming."
Just a few lines - but how deep they go! The world is in anguish and is enslaved by contact. What it calls self is nothing but a disease. Ma˝˝ati is a word of deeper significance. Ma˝˝anā is conceiving under the influence of craving, conceit and views. Whatever becomes an object of that conceiving, by that very conception it becomes otherwise. That is to say that an opportunity arises for an otherwise-ness, even as 'death' has come together with 'birth'.
So conceiving, or conception, is itself the reason for otherwise-ness. Before a 'thing' becomes 'otherwise', it has to become a 'thing'. And it becomes a 'thing' only when attention is focussed on it under the influence of craving, conceit and views and it is separated from the whole world and grasped as a 'thing'. And that is why it is said:
Yaṃ ya˝hi lokasmim upādiyanti,
teneva Māro anveti jantuṃ.
"Whatever one grasps in the world,
By that itself Māra pursues a being."
The world is attached to becoming and is fully given to becoming. Therefore its very nature is otherwise-ness, a˝˝athābhāvī. And then the Buddha declares the inevitable outcome of this contradictory position: yad abhinandati taṃ bhayaṃ, whatever one delights in, that is a fear, that is a danger. What one delights in, is 'becoming' and that is a source of fear. And yassa bhāyati taṃ dukkhaṃ, what one fears, or is afraid of, that is suffering. And of what is one afraid? One is afraid of the otherwise-ness of the thing that one holds on to as existing. So the otherwise-ness is the suffering and the thing grasped is a source of fear.
For instance, when one is walking through a town with one's pockets full of gems, one is afraid because of the valuables in one's pockets. Even so, the existence that one delights in is a source of fear. What one fears is change or otherwise-ness, and that is suffering. Therefore it is that this holy life is lived for the abandonment of that very becoming or existence.
So from this quotation it becomes clear that the nature of existence is 'otherwise-ness'. It is the insight into this nature that is basic in the understanding of idappaccayatā. What is known as the arising of the Dhamma-eye is the understanding of this predicament in worldly existence. But that Dhamma-eye arises together with a solution for this predicament:
Yaṃ ki˝ci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammaṃ. "Whatever is of a nature to arise, all that is of a nature to cease".
As far as the arising aspect is concerned, this whirlpool is formed due to the grasping through craving, conceit and views. Once this saṃsāric whirlpool is formed, it keeps on attracting all that is in the world, all that is within its reach, in the form of craving and grasping. But there is a cessation to this process. It is possible to make it cease. Why? Because it is something arisen due to causes and conditions. Because it is a process based on two things, without a self to hold sway. That is why we have mentioned at the very outset that everything is impermanent, prepared and dependently arisen, aniccaṃ, saṅkhataṃ, paṭicca samuppannaṃ.
Everyone of the twelve links in the formula, including ignorance, is dependently arisen. They are all arisen due to causes and conditions, they are not permanent, aniccaṃ. They are only made up or prepared, saṅkhataṃ. The word saṅkhataṃ is explained in various ways. But in short it means something that is made up, prepared, or concocted by way of intention. Paṭicca samuppannaṃ means conditionally arisen and therefore it is of a nature to get destroyed, khayadhamma. It is of a nature to pass away, vayadhamma. It is of a nature to fade away, virāgadhamma. It is of a nature to cease, nirodhadhamma.
It seems that even the colour or shade of decay-and-death can fade away and that is why we have pointed out their relevance to the question of concepts. This nature of fading away is understood by one who has had an insight into the law of arising and cessation.
Saṃsāra is a whirlpool as far as the ordinary beings caught up in it are concerned. Now what about the Arahants? How is the idea of this whirlpool presented in the case of the Arahants? It is simply said that for them there is no whirling round for there to be a designation: vaṭṭaṃ tesaṃ natthi pa˝˝āpanāya. So in their case, there is no whirling round to justify a designation.
This, then, is something deeper than the whirlpool itself. The whirlpool can be pointed out because of its activity. But not so easily the emancipated ones and that is why there is so much controversy regarding the nature of the Tathāgatha. The image of the whirlpool in its relation to the emancipated ones is beautifully presented in the following verse from the Cūḷavagga of the Udāna:
Acchecchi vaṭṭaṃ byagā nirāsaṃ,
visukkhā saritā na sandati,
chinnaṃ vaṭṭaṃ na vattati,
es' ev' anto dukkhassa.
"He has cut off the whirlpool
And reached desirelessness,
The stream dried up now no longer flows.
The whirlpool cut off whirls no more.
This, even this, is suffering's end."
What has the Arahant done? He has cut off the whirlpool. He has breached it and has reached the desireless state. The stream of craving is dried up and flows no more. The whirlpool cut off at the root no more whirls. And this is the end of suffering. The cutting off of the whirlpool is the realization of cessation, which is Arahant-hood.
It is because of the accent on the arising aspect that the current tries to move against the main stream. When that attempt is given up, the rest happens as a matter of course. This idea is even more clearly brought out by the following two verses in the Sagāthavagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. They are in the form of a dialogue between a deity and the Buddha. The deity asks:
Kuto sarā nivattanti,
kattha vaṭṭaṃ na vattati,
kattha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca
"From where do currents turn back,
Where whirls no more the whirlpool,
Where is it that name-and-form
Is held in check in a way complete?"
The Buddha gives the answer in the following verse:
Yattha āpo ca paṭhavī,
tejo vāyo na gādhati,
ato sarā nivattanti,
ettha vaṭṭaṃ na vattati,
ettha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca,
"Where earth and water, fire and wind no footing find,
From there it is that currents turn back.
There the whirlpool whirls no more
And there it is that name-and-form
Is held in check in a way complete."
The reference here is to Nibbāna. Whether it is called sabbasaṅkhārasamatha, the stilling of all preparations, or asaṅkhatadhātu, the unprepared element, it means the state of cessation. And when the Arahant's mind is in that state, the four elements, which are like ghosts, do not haunt him. They do not get a 'footing' in that consciousness. When they fade away, due to detachment, those currents do not flow and the whirlpool whirls no more. Name and form are fully held in check there.
Now as far as the meaning of rūpa in nāma-rūpa in this reference is concerned, its definition as cattāri ca mahābhūtāni, catunna˝ca mahābhūtānaṃ upādāyarūpaṃ is quite significant . It draws attention to the fact that the four great primaries underlie the concept of form. This is something unique, since before the advent of the Buddha the world thought that in order to get away from rūpa one has to grasp arūpa. But the irony of the situation is that, even in arūpa, rūpa is implicit in a subtle form. Or in other words, arūpa takes rūpa for granted.
Supposing someone, walking in the darkness of the night, has a hallucination of a devil and runs away to escape from it. He thinks he is running away from the devil, but he is taking the devil with him. The devil is in his mind, it is something imagined. Similarly, until the Buddha came into the scene, the worldlings grasped arūpa in order to get away from rūpa. But because of the dichotomy between rūpa and arūpa, even when they swung as far as the highest formless realms, they were still in bondage to saṅkhāras, or preparations. As soon as the momentum of their swing of saṅkhāras got fully spent, they swung back to rūpa. So here too we see the question of duality and dichotomy.
This sermon has served its purpose if it has drawn attention to the importance of the questions of duality, dichotomy and the relatedness of this to that, idappaccayatā. So this is enough for today.
MIND STILLED 03
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
With the permission of the Most Venerable Great Preceptor and the assembly of the venerable meditative monks.
Today we have before us the third sermon on Nibbāna. The other day, with the help of the simile of a whirlpool, we attempted an explanation of the terms saṃsāra on the one hand, and Nibbāna on the other, that is to say 'going round', or saṃsaraṇa, and 'going out', or nissaraṇa. We also cited suttas to illustrate both the arising (samudaya) and cessation (nirodha) aspects of the law of dependent arising.
As regards this whirlpool, to show a parallel development with the links of the law of dependent arising, by way of a sustained simile, we may say that the ignorance in presuming that it is possible to go against the main stream of the three signata - impermanence, suffering and not-self - is the place of its origin. That heap of preparations impelled by ignorance, which takes the current forward, may be regarded as saṅkhāras. And where the current in its progress clashes with the main stream to become a whirlpool, that pushing forward against the main stream is vi˝˝āṇa or consciousness.
The outcome of the clash is nāma-rūpa, or name-and-form, with its formal name and nominal form. That link in the formula of dependent arising called saḷāyatana, or six sense-bases, could be regarded as the outgrowth of this name-and-form.We can understand that link, too, in relation to the simile of the whirlpool. As the whirlpool goes on for a long time, an abyss is formed, the functioning of which could be compared to the six sense-bases.
As a matter of fact, bodily pains are comparable to an abyss. In a certain sutta in the Saṃyutta Nikāya the Buddha says:
Sārīrikānaṃ kho etaṃ bhikkhave dukkhānaṃ vedanānaṃ adhivacanaṃ, yadidaṃ pātālo'ti. "Monks, abyss is a synonym for painful bodily feelings."
When one comes to think about that statement, it would appear that the thirst of craving arises in beings in various forms of existence because of painful feeling. The Sallattenasutta adds to this by stating that the uninstructed worldling, on being touched by painful feeling, delights in sense pleasures, because he knows no way out of painful feeling other than the sense pleasures.
In the light of that statement it seems that the abyss is the endless barrage of painful feelings. The force of attraction that arises from the abyss is like the thirst to quell those painful feelings. The grasping that follows is the functioning of the same force of attraction. It attracts all the flotsam and jetsam around it, as things organically appropriated, upādinna, to put up a show of existence, or bhava. That is, a spot that can be pointed out with the help of things thus grasped by the whirlpool. So this whirlpool or vortex simile gives us some idea of the law of dependent arising.
The insight into the basic principle of dependent arising, is in fact regarded as the arising of the 'eye of Dhamma'. About the stream-winner it is said that the dustless stainless eye of Dhamma has arisen in him. The following phrase, which sums up the significance of that Dhamma-eye, comes up quite often in the discourses:
Yaṃ ki˝ci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammaṃ. "Whatever is of a nature to arise, all that is of a nature to cease."
Sometimes it is briefly alluded to with the couple of terms samudaya and nirodha, as samudayo samudayo and nirodho nirodho. It is as if the experience of that insight has found expression as an exclamation: "Arising, arising! Ceasing, ceasing!" The above phrase only connects up the two aspects of that experience.
It seems then that what is called the 'Dhamma-eye', is the ability to see the Nibbānic solution in the very vortex of the samsāric problem. That way of analysis which puts samsāra and Nibbāna far apart, into two watertight compartments, as it were, gives rise to interminable problems. But here we see that, just as much as one could realize Nibbāna by discovering the cause of suffering and following the path to its cessation, which in effect is the understanding of the four noble truths, one could also put an end to this vortex by understanding its cause and applying the correct means for its cessation.
In the previous sermon we happened to quote some Canonical verses, which declared that the vortex does not exist for an arahant. Now as regards the condition after the cessation of the vortex, if someone asks where the vortex or the whirlpool has gone, what sort of answer can we give? It is the same difficulty that comes up in answering the question: "Where has the fire gone after it has gone out?" Because here too, what we call the whirlpool is that current of water which went against the main stream. It also consists of water, like the body of water outside it. So we cannot say that they united, nor can we say that it went and hid somewhere.
Here we find ourselves in a queer situation. All we can say in fairness to truth is that there had been a certain form of activity, a certain state of unrest, due to certain causes and conditions. Because of that activity that was going on there, it was possible to designate it, to give it a name. By worldly convention one could refer to it as "that place" or "this place".
The entire field of activity was called a whirlpool by worldly convention. But now, the so-called whirlpool is no more. The worldly convention is no more applicable as in the case of an extinguished fire. The word "fire" was introduced, the concept of "fire" was created, to designate a certain state of affairs that arose due to causes and conditions, due to graspings. So from this also we can see that it is in concepts that ignorance finds a camouflage.
Being unaware of it the world goes on amassing concepts and even expects to see them in Nibbāna. There are some who fondly hope to get a vision of their lists of concepts when they realize Nibbāna. But that wisdom penetrates through even the concepts and that is why it is called udayatthagāminī pa˝˝ā ariyā nibbedhikā, "the ariyan penetrative wisdom that sees the rise and fall".
The idea of penetration is already implicit in the phrase yaṃ ki˝ci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammaṃ, "whatever is of a nature to arise, all that is of a nature to cease". If anything has the nature to arise, by that very nature it is bound to come to its end. And that is why the wandering ascetic Upatissa, who was to become Venerable Sāriputta later, attained the fruit of a stream-winner even on hearing the first two lines of the verse uttered by Venerable Assaji:
Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā, tesaṃ hetuṃ tathāgato āha. "Of things that arise from a cause, their cause the Tathāgata has told."
When a wise man hears that something has arisen due to causes and conditions, he immediately understands that it could be made to cease by the removal of those conditions, even without further explanation. It is the dustless stainless Dhamma-eye that enables one to see the Nibbānic solution in the very structure of the saṃsāric problem.
In our quotation from the MahāNidānasutta it was said that all pathways for verbal expression, terminology and designation exist so long as the vortex of saṃsāra is kept going. The implication, therefore, is that they have no existence beyond it. This is the significance of the word ettāvatā, "in so far only".
Ettāvatā jāyetha vā jīyetha vā mīyetha vā cavetha vā upapajjetha vā.. "In so far only can one be born, or grow old, or die, or pass away, or reappear."
So the concepts of birth, decay-and-death, passing away and reappearing, are meaningful only in the context of the saṃsāric vortex between consciousness and name-and-form. If somehow or other this interrelation could be broken, this saṃsāric vortex, the whirlpool, could be stopped, then, after that, nothing remains to be said, nothing remains to be predicated. And as it is said in the Upasīvasutta of the Sutta Nipāta:
Yena naṃ vajju, taṃ tassa natthi, "that by which they would speak of him, that for him exists not".
There are a number of Canonical passages that show us the relevance of this vortex simile to the understanding of the doctrine of paṭicca samuppāda. In the MahāPadānasutta of the Dīgha Nikāya we find a lengthy description of the manner in which the bodhisatta Vipassī got an insight into paṭicca samuppāda. We are told that his mode of approach was one of radical reflection, or yoniso manasikāra, literally: "attention by way of the matrix". One might as well say that it is an attention by way of the vortex. It is as if a man with keen vision, sitting under a tree by a river, were to watch how a fallen leaf gets carried away by the water current, only to get whirled up and disappear in a vortex.
It is clearly stated in the case of Vipassī bodhisatta that his understanding through wisdom came as a result of 'radical reflection', yoniso manasikārā ahu pa˝˝āya abhisamayo. So his insight into paṭicca samuppāda was definitely not due to recollection of past lives. Yoni means the 'matrix', or the 'place of origin'. So in yoniso manasikāra always the attention has to turn towards the place of origin.
So, true to this method, we find the bodhisatta Vipassī starting his reasoning from the very end of the paṭicca samuppāda formula: Kimhi nu kho sati jarāmaraṇaṃ hoti, kiṃ paccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ? "Given what, does decay-and-death come to be, from which condition comes decay-and-death?" And to this question, the following answer occurred to him: Jātiyā kho sati jarāmaraṇaṃ hoti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ. "Given birth, does decay-and-death come to be, from birth as condition comes decay-and-death."
In the same manner, taking pair by pair, he went on reasoning progressively. For instance his next question was: Kimhi nu kho sati jāti hoti, kiṃ paccayā jāti? "Given what, does birth come to be, from which condition comes birth?" And the answer to it was: Bhave kho sati jāti hoti, bhavapaccayā jāti. "Given becoming, birth comes to be, from becoming as condition comes birth."
He went on reasoning like this up to and including name-and-form. But when he came to consciousness, he had to turn back. When he searched for the condition of consciousness, he found that name-and-form itself is the condition, whereby he understood their interdependence, and then he gave expression to the significance of this discovery in the following words:
Paccudāvattati kho idaṃ vi˝˝āṇaṃ nāmarūpamhā, nāparaṃ gacchati. Ettāvatā jāyetha vā jīyetha vā mīyetha vā cavetha vā upapajjetha vā, yadidaṃ nāmarūpapaccayā vi˝˝āṇaṃ, vi˝˝āṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṃ, nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṃ, saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā taṇhā, taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
By means of radical reflection the bodhisatta Vipassī understood that all concepts of birth, decay-and-death converge on the relationship between consciousness and name-and-form:
"This consciousness turns back from name-and-form, it does not go beyond. In so far can one be born, or grow old, or die, or pass away, or reappear, in so far as this is, namely: consciousness is dependent on name-and-form, and name-and-form on consciousness; dependent on name-and-form, the six sense-bases; dependent on the six sense-bases, contact; dependent on contact, feeling; dependent on feeling, craving; dependent on craving, grasping; dependent on grasping, becoming; dependent on becoming, birth; and dependent on birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. Thus is the arising of this entire mass of suffering."
The fact that this understanding of paṭicca samuppāda signified the arising of the Dhamma-eye in Vipassī bodhisatta is stated in the following words:
Samudayo samudayo'ti kho, bhikkhave, Vipassissa bodhisattassa pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhum udapādi, ˝āṇaṃ udapādi, pa˝˝ā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi. "'Arising, arising', thus, O! monks, in regard to things unheard of before, there arose in the bodhisatta Vipassī the eye, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light."
In the same way it is said that the bodhisatta clarified for himself the cessation aspect through radical reflection: Kimhi nu kho asati jarāmaraṇaṃ na hoti, kissa nirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ nirodho? "In the absence of what, will decay-and-death not be, with the cessation of what, is the cessation of decay-and-death?" And as the answer to it, the following thought occurred to him: Jātiyā kho asati jarāmaraṇaṃ na hoti, jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃnirodho. "In the absence of birth, there is no decay-and-death, with the cessation of birth is the cessation of decay-and-death."
Likewise he went on reflecting progressively, until he reached the link between name-and-form and consciousness, and then it occurred to him:
Nāmarūpanirodhā vi˝˝āṇanirodho, vi˝˝āṇanirodhā nāma-rūpanirodho. "From the cessation of name-and-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-and-form."
Once this vital link is broken, that is, when consciousness ceases with the cessation of name-and-form, and name-and-form ceases with the cessation of consciousness, then all the other links following name-and-form, such as the six sense-bases, contact and feeling, come to cease immediately.
The MahāPadānasutta goes on to say that the bodhisatta Vipassī continued to dwell seeing the arising and passing away of the five grasping groups and that before long his mind was fully emancipated from the influxes and that he attained to full enlightenment. It is also said in the sutta in this connection that the bodhisatta followed this mode of reflection, because he understood that it is the way of insight leading to awakening:
Adhigato kho myāyaṃ vipassanā maggo bodhāya. "I have found this path of insight to awakening, to enlightenment."
And as we saw above the most important point, the pivotal point, in this path of insight, is the relationship between name-and-form and consciousness. The commentary raises the question, why the bodhisatta Vipassī makes no mention of the first two links, avijjā and saṅkhārā, and gives the explanation that he could not see them, as they belong to the past.
But this is not the reason. The very ignorance regarding the relationship between name-and-form and consciousness - is avijjā. And what accounts for the continuity of this relationship - is saṅkhārā. It is because of these preparations that the vortical interplay between consciousness and name-and-form is kept going.
Simply because the first two links are not mentioned in the sutta, the commentators give the explanation that they belong to the past. But it should be clear that the bodhisatta Vipassī could not have aroused the Dhamma-eye without those two links. Why they are not specially mentioned here is because they are in the background. It is true that there is a mode of exposition, in which avijjā, or ignorance, takes precedence. But what we have here is a different mode of exposition, according to which one has to stop short at the interrelation between consciousness and name-and-form.
As to the cause of this mutual relationship, we have to go back to the vortex simile. Usually, the progress of a current of water is visible at some distance away from the vortex. In this case, the current of water forgets its own impermanent, suffering and not-self nature, and goes ahead in search of a permanent, pleasurable and self nature. And this itself - is avijjā, or ignorance. This very tendency of the narrow water current to push on against the main body of water, is itself what is called consciousness.
Similarly, in the context of the saṃsāric individual, what forms the background for the interplay between consciousness and name-and-form, is the non-understanding that the net result of the interplay is suffering, that it only leads to suffering. In other words, it is the tendency to go ahead in search of a state of permanence, pleasure and self, ignoring the three characteristics of impermanence, suffering and not-self.
The heap of preparations or efforts arising out of that tendency are the saṅkhārās. It is on these very preparations or efforts that consciousness depends, and then we have name-and-form existing in relation to it. On the side of name-and-form, or beyond it, we have all the other links of the paṭicca samuppāda. So in this way we can form a mental picture of the formula of paṭicca samuppāda by some sort of a pictorial explanation. It seems, then, that this discourse is further proof of the statements found in the MahāNidānasutta.
There is yet another discourse, one preached by Venerable Sāriputta, which supports our conclusions. It is found in the Nidānasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. There Venerable Sāriputta brings out a simile that is even simpler than the vortex simile. He compares consciousness and name-and-form to two bundles of reeds. When two bundles of reeds stand, one supporting the other, if one of those is drawn out, the other would fall down. And if the latter is drawn out, the former will fall down: Ekaṃ ākaḍḍheyya, ekā papateyya, aparaṃ ce ākaḍḍheyya, aparā papateyya.
The mutual interrelation between consciousness and name-and-form is like that of two bundles of reeds, mutually supporting each other. Having given this simile, Venerable Sāriputta goes on to mention the other links of the paṭicca samuppāda formula, as in the case of the bodhisatta Vipassī's insight. It runs: "Dependent on name-and-form, the six sense-bases; dependent on the six sense-bases, contact; dependent on contact, feelings" (and so on). And then the cessation aspect of these links is also given.
By way of illustration, let us suppose that the consciousness bundle of reeds is standing on the left side, and the name-and-form bundle is on the right. Then we have a number of other bundles, such as the six sense-bases, contact and feeling, all leaning on to the name-and-form bundle of reeds. These are all dependent on the name-and-form bundle.
Now, as soon as the consciousness bundle is drawn out, all the others on the right side fall down immediately. There is no interval. True to the qualities of the Dhamma, summed up in the terms sandiṭṭhika, akālika and ehipassika, that is, to be seen here and now, not involving time, and inviting to come and see, the entire mass of saṃsāric suffering ceases immediately. So, this discourse is further proof of the fact that we have here quite a different state of affairs, than what is commonly believed to be the significance of the paṭicca samuppāda formula.
That is why we have pointed out that the concepts of birth, decay-and-death are of the nature of fading away. That is also why decay-and-death have been described as impermanent, made up, dependently arisen, of a nature to wither away, pass away, fade away and cease: Aniccaṃ saṅkhataṃ paṭiccasamuppannaṃ khayadhammaṃ vayadhammaṃ virāgadhammaṃ nirodhadhammaṃ.
When one comes to think of it, one may find it difficult to understand why decay-and-death are called impermanent and withering or decaying. But the reason is that all concepts, in so far as they are leaning on to the name-and-form bundle, have to fall down when the opposite bundle of reeds is drawn out. That is to say that the entire mass of saṃsāric suffering ceases immediately, and the whirlpool of saṃsāra comes to an end.
This, then, seems to be the most plausible conclusion. According to the interpretation we have adopted, in the MahāHatthipadopamasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya Venerable Sāriputta brings out as a quotation a certain statement of the Buddha on paṭicca samuppāda. It runs:
Yo paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passati so dhammaṃ passati; yo dhammaṃ passati so paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passati. "He who sees the law of dependent arising, sees the Dhamma; he who sees the Dhamma, sees the law of dependent arising."
This shows that the quintessence of the Dhamma is in fact the law of dependent arising itself. Now there are these six qualities of the Dhamma, summed up in the well know formula, which every Buddhist believes in. This Dhamma is well-preached, svākkhāto. It can be seen here and now, sandiṭṭhiko, that is, one can see it by oneself here in this very world. It is timeless, akāliko. It invites one to come and see, ehipassiko. It leads one on, opanayiko. It can be realized by the wise each one by himself, paccattaṃ veditabbo vi˝˝ūhi.
Though we all have faith in these qualities of the Dhamma, let us see whether the traditionally accepted interpretation of paṭicca samuppāda is faithful to these qualities, particularly to the two qualities sandiṭṭhiko and akāliko.
According to that accepted interpretation, presented by the venerable author of the Visuddhimagga, the first two links of the formula belong to the past, and the last two links belong to the future. The remaining eight links in the middle are taken to represent the present. That means, we have here the three periods of time. So it is not - timeless.
And that is why they explained that the bodhisatta Vipassī did not see the first two links. Perhaps, the presumption is, that since these two links belong to the past, they can be seen only by the knowledge of the recollection of past lives. But on the other hand, the suttas tell us that even the stream-winner has a clear understanding of paṭicca samuppāda: Ariyo c'assa ˝āyo pa˝˝āya sudiṭṭho hoti suppaṭividdho. "By him the Noble Norm is well seen and well penetrated through with wisdom."
The 'noble norm' is none other than the law of dependent arising, and the stream-winner has seen it well, penetrated into it well with wisdom. The prefix su- implies the clarity of that vision. The question, then, is how a stream-winner, who has no knowledge of the recollection of past lives, can get this insight.
Whatever it may be, the accepted interpretation, as already mentioned, puts the first two links into the past. That is to say, ignorance and preparations are referred to the past. Birth, decay-and-death are referred to the future. The eight links in between are explained with reference to the present. Thus the formula is divided into three periods.
Not only that, in the attempt to interpret the formula as referring to three stages in the saṃsāric journey of an individual, additional links had to be interposed to prop up the interpretation. Ignorance, preparations, craving, grasping and becoming are regarded as the past causes. Depending on these past causes, consciousness, name-and-form, six sense-bases, contact and feeling are said to arise as results in the present. And again, with ignorance, preparations, craving, grasping and becoming as present causes, consciousness, name-and-form, six sense-bases, contact and feeling arise as results in the future.
This kind of interpretation is also advanced. But this interpretation in terms of pentads violates the interrelatedness between the twelve links in the formula. We have already drawn attention to the fact of interrelation between the two links in each pair. In fact, that itself has to be taken as the law of dependent arising. That is the basic principle itself: Because of one, the other arises. With its cessation, the other ceases. There is this mode of analysis, but then it is disrupted by the attempt to smuggle in additional links into the formula.
Furthermore, according to this accepted commentarial exegesis, even the term bhava, or becoming, is given a twofold interpretation. As kamma-process-becoming and rebirth-process-becoming. In the context upādānapaccaya bhavo, dependent on grasping is becoming, it is explained as rebirth-process-becoming, while in the case of the other context, bhavapaccaya jāti, dependent on becoming is birth, it is taken to mean kamma-process-becoming. So the same term is explained in two ways. Similarly, the term jāti, which generally means birth, is said to imply rebirth in the context of the formula of dependent arising.
There are many such weak points in the accepted interpretation. Quite a number of authoritative modern scholars have pointed this out. Now all these short-comings could be side-tracked, if we grant the fact, as already mentioned, that the secret of the entire saṃsāric vortex is traceable to the two links consciousness and name-and-form. As a matter of fact, the purpose of the formula of dependent arising is to show the way of arising and cessation of the entire mass of suffering, and not to illustrate three stages in the saṃsaric journey of an individual.
The distinctive feature of this law of dependent arising is its demonstrability in the present, as suggested by the terms 'to be seen here and now' and 'timeless', even as the bodhisatta Vipassī discovered it, through radical reflection itself. The salient characteristic of the teaching of the Buddha is its visibility here and now and timelessness. This fact is well revealed by the Hemakasutta of the Sutta Nipāta. The brahmin youth Hemaka sings praise of the Buddha in the following verses:
Ye me pubbe viyākaṃsu,
iccāsi iti bhavissati,
sabbaṃ taṃ itihītihaṃ,
sabbaṃ taṃ takkavaḍḍhanaṃ,
nāhaṃ tattha abhiramiṃ.
Tva˝ca me dhammam akkhāhi,
taṇhā nigghātanaṃ muni,
yaṃ viditvā sato caraṃ,
tare loke visattikaṃ.
"Those who explained to me before,
Outside the dispensation of Gotama,
All of them said: 'so it was, and so it will be',
But all that is 'so and so' talk,
All that is productive of logic,
I did not delight therein.
But now to me, O! sage,
Proclaim your Dhamma,
That is destructive of craving,
By knowing which and mindfully faring along,
One might get beyond the world's viscosity."
Now, to paraphrase: Whatever teachers explained to me their teachings outside your dispensation, used to bring in the past and the future in their explanations, saying: "So it was, and so it will be." That is, they were always referring to a past and a future. But all that can be summed up as 'so and so' talk.
By the way, the term itihītiha had already become a technical term for 'hearsay' among the ascetics. Such teachings based on hearsay were productive of logic, as for instance testified by the Sabbāsavasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya. "Was I in the past, was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what did I become in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I become in the future?" (and so on) 
"But, I was not pleased with such teachings", says Hemaka, "It is only you, O! sage, who teaches the Dhamma that destroys the craving in the present, understanding which, and mindfully following it accordingly, one could go beyond the sticky craving in the world." Hemaka's praise of the Buddha was inspired by this most distinctive feature in the Dhamma.
We have already stated that by 'Dhamma' is meant the law of dependent arising. This is further proof that the basic principle underlying the formula of dependent arising could be traced to the constant relationship between consciousness and name-and-form, already present in one's mental continuum, without running into the past or leaping towards the future.
We know that, in order to ascertain whether a banana trunk is pith-less, it is not necessary to go on removing its bark, layer after layer, from top to bottom. We only have to take a sharp sword and cut the trunk in the middle, so that the cross-section will reveal to us its pith-less nature. Similarly, if we cut in the middle the banana trunk of preparations with the sharp sword of wisdom, pa˝˝āmayaṃ tikhiṇamasiṃ gahetvā, its internal structure as revealed by the cross-section will convince us of the essence-less nature of the group of preparations.
Whatever existence there was in the past, that too had the same essence-less nature. And whatever existence there will be in the future, will have this same essencelessness. And I see it now, in my own mental continuum, as something visible here and now, not involving time. It is with such a conviction that the noble disciple utters the words: "Arising, arising! Cessation, cessation!" That is how he arrives at the realization summed up in the phrase:
"Yaṃ ki˝ci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammaṃ. "Whatever is of the nature to arise, all that is of the nature to cease." All this goes to show that the accepted interpretation has certain short-comings.
To take up another simile, we have already alluded to the fact that the Buddha has been compared to a physician. Though this might well sound a modernism, we may say that a specialist doctor today needs only a drop of blood or blood tissue for a full diagnosis of a patient's disease. When seen under the microscope, that blood tissue reveals the pathological condition of the patient. Even the patient himself could be invited to see for himself the result of the blood test.
But once the disease has been cured, the doctor could invite the patient again to undergo a blood test, if he likes to assure himself of the fact that that disease has been effectively treated. The Buddha's teaching has a similar 'here and now' and timeless quality. What is noteworthy is that this quality is found in the law of dependent arising.
Then there is another question that crops up out of this traditional interpretation of the formula of dependent arising. That is, the reason why the two links, ignorance and preparations, are referred to the past.
In some discourses, like the MahāNidānasutta, there is a discussion about a descent of consciousness into a mother's womb. Simply because there is such a discussion, one might think that the law of dependent arising has reference to a period beyond one's conception in a mother's womb.
But if we carefully examine the trend of this discussion and analyse its purpose, such a conclusion will appear to be groundless. The point which the Buddha was trying to drive home into Venerable Ānanda by his catechism, is that the constant interrelation that exists between consciousness and name-and-form is present even during one's life in the mother's womb. This catechism can be analysed into four parts. The first question is:
Vi˝˝āṇaṃ va hi, Ānanda, mātukucchismiṃ na okkamissatha, api nu kho nāmarūpaṃ mātukucchismiṃ samuccissatha? And Venerable Ānanda's answer is: No h'etaṃ, bhante. "If, Ānanda, consciousness were not to descend into a mother's womb, would name-and-form remain there?" "It would not, Lord."
The Buddha is asking whether name-and-form can persist in remaining inside the mother's womb, if consciousness refuses to descend into it, so to say. The word samuccissatha presents a difficulty as regards etymology. But it is quite likely that it has to do with the idea of remaining, as it has an affinity to the word ucciṭṭha, left over, remnant.
So the point raised here is that, in the event of a non-descent of consciousness into the mother's womb, name-and-form will not be left remaining there. Name-and-form has to have the support of consciousness. However, in this interrelation, it is consciousness that decides the issue. If consciousness does not descend, name-and-form will not remain there.
So even if, at the moment of death, one has a thought of some mother's womb, if consciousness does not descend in the proper manner, name-and-form cannot stay there. Name-and-form has always to be understood in relation to consciousness. It is not something that is to be found in trees and rocks. It always goes hand in hand with consciousness. So, the upshot of the above discussion is that name-and-form will not remain there without the support of consciousness.
Venerable Ānanda's response to the first question, then, is : "That indeed is not the case, O! Lord." Then the Buddha asks: Vi˝˝āṇaṃ va hi, Ānanda, mātukucchismiṃ okkamitvā vokkamissatha, api nu kho nāmarūpaṃ itthattāya abhinibbattissatha? "If, Ānanda, consciousness, having descended into the mother's womb, were to slip out of it, would name-and-form be born into this state of existence?" Venerable Ānanda's reply to it is again: "That indeed is not the case, Lord."
Now the question is: Ānanda, if for some reason or other, consciousness, having descended into the mother's womb, slips out of it, will name-and-form secure birth as a this-ness, or itthatta. We have mentioned above that itthatta is a term with some special significance. That is, how a 'there' becomes a 'here', when a person takes birth in a particular form of existence. In short, what it implies, is that a person comes to be born.
In other words, if consciousness, having descended into the mother's womb, slips out of it, that name-and-form will not mature into a this-ness and be born into a this-ness. There is no possibility of the this-ness coming into being. For there to be a this-ness, both consciousness and name-and-form must be there. We can understand, then, why Venerable Ānanda replied in the negative.
The next question the Buddha puts, is this:
Vi˝˝āṇaṃ va hi, Ānanda, daharasseva sato vocchijjissatha kumārakassa vā kumārikāya vā, api nu kho nāmarūpaṃ vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjissatha? "If, Ānanda, the consciousness of a boy or a girl were cut off when he or she is still young, will name-and-form come to growth and maturity?" To that question too, Venerable Ānanda replies: "That indeed is not the case, Lord."
Now that the preliminary questions have been correctly answered, the Buddha then comes out with the following conclusion, since the necessary premises are complete:
Tasmātih'Ānanda, es' eva hetu etaṃ nidānaṃ esa samudayo esa paccayo nāmarūpassa, yadidaṃ vi˝˝āṇaṃ. "Therefore, Ānanda, this itself is the cause, this is the reason, origin and condition for name-and-form, namely consciousness."
What is emphasized here, is the importance of consciousness. Out of the two, namely consciousness and name-and-form, what carries more weight with it, is consciousness, even if there be a trace of name-and-form. What the above questionnaire makes clear, is that name-and-form arises in a mother's womb because of consciousness. But that name-and-form will not remain there, if consciousness does not properly descend into the womb.
Also, if consciousness, after its descent, were to slip out, name-and-form will not reach the state of a this-ness. So much so that, even after one's birth as a boy or girl, if consciousness gets cut off in some way or other, name-and-form will not reach growth and maturity. So from all this, it is clear that consciousness is an essential condition for there to be name-and-form. Then the Buddha introduces the fourth step:
Vi˝˝āṇaṃ va hi, Ānanda, nāmarūpe patiṭthaṃ na labhissatha, api no kho āyatiṃ jātijarāmaraṇaṃ dukkhasamudayasambhavo pa˝˝āyetha? "If, Ānanda, consciousness were not to find a footing, or get established in, name-and-form, would there be an arising or origin of birth, decay, death and suffering in the future?" "No indeed, Lord", says Venerable Ānanda.
Now this fourth point is extremely important. What it implies is that, though the aforesaid is the normal state of affairs in saṃsāra, if for some reason or other consciousness does not get established on name-and-form, if at all such a contrivance were possible, there will not be any saṃsāric suffering again. And this position, too, Venerable Ānanda grants.
So from this discussion, too, it is obvious that, simply because there is a reference to a mother's womb in it, we cannot conclude that ignorance and preparations are past causes. It only highlights the mutual relationship between consciousness and name-and-form.
Now the question that comes up next is: "How does consciousness not get established on name-and-form? In what respects does it not get established, and how?"
The consciousness of a saṃsāric individual is always an established consciousness. It is in the nature of this consciousness to find a footing on name-and-form. These two go together. That is why in the Sampasādanīyasutta of the Dīgha Nikāya it is mentioned in the discussion on the attainments to vision, dassanasamāpatti, that a person with such an attainment sees a man's stream of consciousness that is not cut off on either side, established in this world and in the next: Purisassa ca vi˝˝āṇasotaṃ pajānāti, ubhayato abbocchinnaṃ idha loke patiṭṭhita˝ca para loke patiṭṭhita˝ca. What is implied here is the established nature of consciousness. The consciousness of a saṃsāric individual is established both in this world and in the next.
Another attainment of vision, mentioned in the sutta, concerns the seeing of a man's stream of consciousness not cut off on either side, and not established in this world or in the next. And that is a reference to the consciousness of an arahant. So an arahant's consciousness is an unestablished consciousness, whereas the consciousness of the saṃsāric individual is an established consciousness.
That is precisely why in the Sagāthavagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya and in the Sāratthapakāsinī, where the episode of Venerable Godhika's suicide is mentioned, it is said that, though he cut his own neck intending to commit suicide, he was able to attain parinibbāna as an arahant by radically attending to the deadly pain. But Māra took him to be an ordinary person and hovered around in search of his consciousness - in vain. The Buddha, on the other hand, declared that Venerable Godhika passed away with an unestablished consciousness:
Appatiṭṭhitena ca, bhikkhave, vi˝˝āṇena Godhiko kulaputto parinibbuto. "O! monks, the clansman Godhika passed away with an unestablished consciousness."
The consciousness of an ordinary saṃsāric individual is always established. The above mentioned relationship is always there. Because of this we can say that there is always a knot in the consciousness of the saṃsāric individual. For him, this world and the next world are tied together in a knot. In this case, what is needed, is only the untying of the knot. There is no need of a fresh tying up, as the knot is already there.
But the term paṭisandhi vi˝˝āṇa, or rebirth-linking-consciousness, is now so widely used that we cannot help making use of it, even in relating a Jātaka story. The idea is that, after the death-consciousness, there occurs a rebirth-linking-consciousness. However, some scholars even raise the question, why a term considered so important is not to be found in the discourses. On many an occasion the Buddha speaks about the descent into a womb. But apart from using such terms as okkanti, descent, gabbhassa avakkanti, descent into a womb, and uppatti, arising, he does not seem to have used the term paṭisandhi.
What is meant by this term paṭisandhi? It seems to imply a tying up of two existences. After death there is a 'relinking'. We have mentioned above, in connection with the simile of the bundles of reeds that, when the consciousness bundle of reeds is drawn, the name-and-form bundle of reeds falls. And when the name-and-form bundle of reeds is drawn, the consciousness bundle of reeds falls. And that there is a relationship of mutuality condition between them.
The question, then, is why a tying up is brought in, while granting the relationship by mutuality condition. Because, going by the same simile, it would be tantamount to saying that rebirth-linking-consciousness straightens up when death-consciousness falls, as if, when one bundle of reeds is drawn, the other straightens up. This contradicts the nature of mutuality condition. There is no timelessness here. Therefore paṭisandhi is a term that needs critical scrutiny.
The mental continuum of a saṃsāric being is always knotted with a tangle within and a tangle without. And it is already implicit in the relationship between consciousness and name-and-form. What happens at the dying moment is usually posed as a deep problem. But if we carefully examine the situation in the light of Canonical discourses, we could see here an illustration of the law of dependent arising itself.
Now as far as this established consciousness and the unestablished consciousness are concerned, we have already drawn attention to the relationship between a 'here' and a 'there'. We came across the term itthatta, otherwise called itthabhāva. As a rendering for it, we have used the term 'this-ness'. And then we have already pointed out that this itthabhāva, or this-ness, goes hand in hand with a˝˝atthābhāva, or otherwise-ness. That is to say, wherever a this-ness arises, wherever a concept of a something arises, as a rule that itself is the setting in of transformation or change.
This-ness and other-wiseness are therefore to be found in a pair-wise combination. Wherever there is a this-ness, there itself is an otherwise-ness. So in this way, because of the fact that, due to this this-ness itself, wherever this-ness arises, otherwise-ness arises, together with it, wherever there is a 'there', there is always a 'here'. This, then, is how the consciousness of the saṃsāric being functions.
As far as one's everyday life is concerned, what is called the conscious body, is the body with consciousness. Generally we regard this body as something really our own. Not only that, we can also objectify things outside us, beyond our range of vision, things that are objects of thought or are imagined. That is what is meant by the Canonical phrase:
Imasmi˝ca savi˝˝āṇake kāye bahiddhā ca sabbanimittesu ahaṃkāra mamaṃkāra mānānusayā na honti. "There are no latencies to conceit by way of I-making and mine-making regarding this conscious body and all outside signs."
What it implies, is that one can have latencies to conceit by way of I-making and mine-making regarding this conscious body as well as all outside signs. Now, if we consider the deeper implications of this statement, we can get at some new perspective for understanding the nature of the relationship between consciousness and name-and-form.
If someone, deeply attached to a person who is not near him, but living somewhere far far away, is heavily immersed in some deep thought, then, even if there is some painful contact, such as the prick of a fly, or the bite of a mosquito, or even if another comes and shakes him by the shoulder, he might not feel it, because he is so immersed in the thought.
Now, why is that? Normally, the rightful place for consciousness is this body. But what has happened now, is that it has gone away temporarily and united with the name-and-form outside, with that object far away. But it can be awakened. This is the way the mind travels.
It is due to a lack of clear understanding about the journey of the mind, that the concept of a relinking-consciousness was found to be necessary. The way the mind travels is quite different from the way the body travels. The journey of the body is a case of leaving one place to go to another. But the mind's journey is not like that. It is a sort of whirling or turning round, as in the case of a whirlpool or a vortex.
That is to say, just as in the case of a rubber-band which could be stretched lengthwise or crosswise, there is a certain whirling round going on between consciousness and name-and-form. It is because of that whirling motion, which could either be circular or oval shaped, that consciousness and name-and-form could either get drawn apart, or drawn in, as they go round and round in a kind of vortical interplay.
So in a situation like the one mentioned above, for that person, the distant has become near. At the start, when he fell to thinking, it was a 'there' for him. Then it became a 'here'. And the here became a 'there'. This brings out, in a subtle way, the relevance of these concepts to the question of understanding such teachings as the law of dependent arising.
Concepts of a here and a there are in a way relative. They presuppose each other. Itthabhāva, this-ness, and a˝˝athābhāva, otherwise-ness, referred to above, mean the same thing. Itthabhāva goes hand in hand with a˝˝athābhāva. They are bound in a pair-wise combination. When you drag in one, the other follows of necessity. It is the same in the case of the relationship between birth on the one hand, and decay-and-death on the other, as already mentioned.
Also, consciousness and name-and-form always move in an orbit. It is not something like the journey of the body. Thought goes, but it rests on consciousness, it gravitates towards consciousness. It is because consciousness also has gone there that we say someone is 'immersed' or 'engrossed' in some thought. It is consciousness that carries more weight.
This is sufficiently clear even from the Dhamma discussion of the Buddha, quoted above. If consciousness does not descend into a mother's womb, name-and-form will not remain there. If consciousness does not join in to provide the opportunity, it will not grow. This is the nature of the relationship between them.
Though not well authenticated, cases have been reported of persons, on the verge of death, going through such unusual experiences as visualizing their own body from some outside standpoint. Taking into consideration the above mentioned relationship, this is quite understandable. That external standpoint might not be a place which has the ability to sustain that consciousness, or which is capable of creating a new body out of the four primary elements. All the same, it temporarily escapes and goes there and is now wavering to decide, whether or not to come back to the body, as it were. It is on such occasions that one visualizes one's own body from outside.
So here we have the norm of the mind's behaviour. Seen in this way, there is no need for a fresh tying up, or relinking, because it is the same vortex that is going on all the time. In the context of this saṃsāric vortex, the 'there' becomes a 'here', and a 'here' becomes a 'there'. The distant becomes a near, and a near becomes a distant.
It is owing to this state of affairs that the consciousness of the saṃsāric individual is said to be always established. There is a certain twin character about it. Whenever consciousness leaves this body for good, it goes and rests on a name-and-form object which it had already taken up. In other words, this is why the Buddha did not find it necessary to coin a new term to express the idea of conception in some mother's womb.
Consciousness has as its object name-and-form. It is precisely because of consciousness that one can speak of it as a name-and-form. It is like the shadow that falls on consciousness. Name-and-form is like an image.
Now in taking a photograph, there is a similar turn of events. Even if one does not pose for the photograph with so much make-up, even if one turns one's back to the camera, at least a shade of his shape will be photographed as an image, if not his form. Similarly, in the case of the saṃsāric individual, even if he does not entertain an intention or thought construct, if he has at least the latency, anusaya, that is enough for him to be reborn in some form of existence or other.
That is why the Buddha has preached such an important discourse as the Cetanāsutta of the Nidāna Saṃyutta in the Saṃyutta Nikāya. It runs:
Ya˝ca, bhikkhave, ceteti ya˝ca pakappeti ya˝ca anuseti, ārammaṇam etaṃ hoti vi˝˝āṇassa ṭhitiyā. Ārammaṇe sati patiṭṭhā vi˝˝āṇassa hoti. Tasmiṃ patiṭṭhite vi˝˝āṇe virūḷhe nāmarūpassa avakkanti hoti. Nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṃ, saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā taṇhā, taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
"Monks, whatever one intends, whatever one mentally constructs, whatever lies latent, that becomes an object for the stationing of consciousness. There being an object, there comes to be an establishment of consciousness. When that consciousness is established and grown, there is the descent of name-and-form. Dependent on name-and-form the six sense-bases come to be; dependent on the six sense-bases arises contact; and dependent on contact arises feeling; dependent on feeling, craving; dependent on craving, grasping; dependent on grasping, becoming; dependent on becoming, birth; dependent on birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. Such is the arising of this entire mass of suffering." Then comes the second instance:
No ce, bhikkhave, ceteti no ce pakappeti, atha ce anuseti, ārammaṇam etaṃ hoti vi˝˝āṇassa ṭhitiyā. Ārammaṇe sati patiṭṭhā vi˝˝āṇassa hoti. Tasmiṃ patiṭṭhite vi˝˝āṇe virūḷhe nāmarūpassa avakkanti hoti. Nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṃ, saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā taṇhā, taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
"Monks, even if one does not intend or construct mentally, but has a latency, that becomes an object for the stationing of consciousness. There being an object, there comes to be the establishment of consciousness. When that consciousness is established and grown, there is the descent of name-and-form. Dependent on name-and-form the six sense-bases come to be; dependent on the six sense-bases arises contact; and dependent on contact, feeling; dependent on feeling, craving; dependent on craving, grasping; dependent on grasping, becoming; dependent on becoming, birth; dependent on birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. Such is the arising of this entire mass of suffering."
The significance of this second paragraph is that it speaks of a person who, at the time of death, has no intentions or thought constructs as such. But he has the latency. This itself is sufficient as an object for the stationing of consciousness. It is as if he has turned his back to the camera, but got photographed all the same, due to his very presence there. Now comes the third instance:
Yato ca kho, bhikkhave, no ceva ceteti no ca pakappeti no ca anuseti, ārammaṇam etaṃ na hoti vi˝˝āṇassa ṭhitiyā. Ārammaṇe asati patiṭthā vi˝˝āṇassa na hoti. Tadappatiṭṭhite vi˝˝āṇe avirūḷhe nāmarūpassa avakkanti na hoti. Nāmarūpanirodhā saḷāyatananirodho, saḷāyatananirodhā phassanirodho, phassanirodhā vedanānirodho, vedanānirodhā taṇhānirodho, taṇhānirodhā upādānanirodho, upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho, bhavanirodhā jātinirodho, jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā nirujjhanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti.
"But, monks, when one neither intends, nor constructs mentally, and has no latency either, then there is not that object for the stationing of consciousness. There being no object, there is no establishment of consciousness. When consciousness is not established and not grown up, there is no descent of name-and-form, and with the cessation of name-and-form, there comes to be the cessation of the six sense-bases; with the cessation of the six sense-bases, the cessation of contact; with the cessation of contact, the cessation of feeling; with the cessation of feeling, the cessation of craving; with the cessation of craving, the cessation of grasping; with the cessation of grasping, the cessation of becoming; with the cessation of becoming, the cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, the cessation of decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to cease. Thus is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering."
This third instance is the most significant. In the first instance, there were the intentions, thought constructs and latency. In the second instance, that person had no intentions or thought constructs, but only latency was there. In this third instances, there is neither an intention, nor a thought construct, and not even a latency.
It is then that there comes to be no object for the stationing of consciousness. There being no object, there is no establishment of consciousness, and when consciousness is unestablished and not grown, there is no descent of name-and-form. Where there is no descent of name-and-form, there at last comes to be that cessation of name-and-form with which the six sense-bases, and all the rest of it, down to the entire mass of saṃsāric suffering, cease altogether then and there.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
Towards the end of the last sermon, we were trying to explain how the process of the saṃsāric journey of beings could be understood even with the couple of terms itthabhāva and a˝˝atthābhāva, or this-ness and otherwise-ness. On an earlier occasion, we happened to quote the following verse in the Sutta Nipāta:
Taṇhā dutiyo puriso,
It means: "The man with craving as his second", or "as his companion", "faring on for a long time in saṃsāra, does not transcend the round, which is of the nature of a this-ness and an otherwise-ness."
This is further proof that the two terms imply a circuit. It is a circuit between a 'here' and a 'there', or a 'this-ness' and an 'otherwise-ness'. It is a turning round, an alternation or a circuitous journey. It is like a rotation on the spot. It is an ambivalence between a here and a there.
It is the relationship between this this-ness and otherwise-ness that we tried to illustrate with quotations from the suttas. We mentioned in particular that consciousness, when it leaves this body and gets well established on a preconceived object, which in fact is its name-and-form object, that name-and-form attains growth and maturity there itself. Obviously, therefore, name-and-form is a necessary condition for the sustenance and growth of consciousness in a mother's womb.
It should be clearly understood that the passage of consciousness from here to a mother's womb is not a movement from one place to another, as in the case of the body. In reality, it is only a difference of point of view, and not a transmigration of a soul. In other words, when consciousness leaves this body and comes to stay in a mother's womb, when it is fully established there, 'that' place becomes a 'this' place. From the point of view of that consciousness, the 'there' becomes a 'here'. Consequently, from the new point of view, what was earlier a 'here', becomes a 'there'. What was formerly 'that place' has now become 'this place' and vice versa. That way, what actually is involved here, is a change of point of view. So it does not mean completely leaving one place and going to another, as is usually meant by the journey of an individual.
The process, then, is a sort of going round and round. This is all the more clear by the Buddha's statement that even consciousness is dependently arisen. There are instances in which the view that this selfsame consciousness fares on in saṃsāra by itself, tadevidaṃ vi˝˝āṇaṃ sandhāvati saṃsarati, ana˝˝aṃ, is refuted as a wrong view.
On the one hand, for the sustenance and growth of name-and-form in a mother's womb, consciousness is necessary. On the other hand, consciousness necessarily requires an object for its stability. It could be some times an intention, or else a thought construct. In the least, it needs a trace of latency, or anusaya. This fact is clear enough from the sutta quotations we brought up towards the end of the previous sermon. From the Cetanāsutta, we happened to quote on an earlier occasion, it is obvious that at least a trace of latency is necessary for the sustenance of consciousness.
When consciousness gets established in a mother's womb, with this condition in the least, name-and-form begins to grow. It grows, at it were, with a flush of branches, in the form of the six sense bases, to produce a fresh tree of suffering. It is this idea that is voiced by the following well known verse in the Dhammapada:
Yathāpi mūle anupaddave daḷhe
chinno pi rukkho punareva rūhati
evam pi taṇhānusaye anūhate
nibbattati dukkham idaṃ punappunaṃ.
"Just as a tree, so long as its root is unharmed and firm,
Though once cut down, will none the less grow up again,
Even so, when craving's latency is not yet rooted out,
This suffering gets reborn again and again."
It is clear from this verse too that the latency to craving holds a very significant place in the context of the saṃsāric journey of a being. In the Aṅguttara Nikāya one comes across the following statement by the Buddha: Kammaṃ khettaṃ, vi˝˝āṇaṃ bījaṃ, taṇhā sineho. "Kamma is the field, consciousness is the seed, craving is the moisture." This, in effect, means that consciousness grows in the field of kamma with craving as the moisture.
It is in accordance with this idea and in the context of this particular simile that we have to interpret the reply of Selā Therī to a question raised by Māra. In the Sagātha Vagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya one comes across the following riddle put by Māra to the arahant nun Selā:
Ken'idaṃ pakataṃ bimbaṃ,
ko nu bimbassa kārako,
kvannu bimbaṃ samuppannaṃ,
kvannu bimbaṃ nirujjhati?
"By whom was this image wrought,
Who is the maker of this image,
Where has this image arisen,
And where does the image cease?"
The image meant here is one's body, or one's outward appearance which, for the conventional world, is name-and-form. Selā Therī gives her answer in three verses:
Nayidaṃ attakataṃ bimbaṃ,
nayidaṃ parakataṃ aghaṃ,
hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtaṃ,
Yathā a˝˝ataraṃ bījaṃ,
khette vuttaṃ virūhati,
Evaṃ khandhā ca dhātuyo,
cha ca āyatanā ime,
hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtā,
"Neither self-wrought is this image,
Nor yet other-wrought is this misery,
By reason of a cause, it came to be,
By breaking up the cause, it ceases to be.
Just as in the case of a certain seed,
Which when sown on the field would feed
On the taste of the earth and moisture,
And by these two would grow.
Even so, all these aggregates
Elements and bases six,
By reason of a cause have come to be,
By breaking up the cause will cease to be."
The first verse negates the idea of creation and expresses the conditionally arisen nature of this body. The simile given in the second verse illustrates this law of dependent arising. It may be pointed out that this simile is not one chosen at random. It echoes the idea behind the Buddha's statement already quoted, kammaṃ khettaṃ, vi˝˝āṇaṃ bījaṃ, taṇhā sineho. Kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture.
Here the venerable Therī is replying from the point of view of Dhamma, which takes into account the mental aspect as well. It is not simply the outward visible image, as commonly understood by nāma-rūpa, but that image which falls on consciousness as its object. The reason for the arising and growth of nāma-rūpa is therefore the seed of consciousness. That consciousness seed grows in the field of kamma, with craving as the moisture. The outgrowth is in terms of aggregates, elements and bases. The cessation of consciousness is none other than Nibbāna.
Some seem to think that the cessation of consciousness occurs in an arahant only at the moment of his parinibbāna, at the end of his life span. But this is not the case. Very often, the deeper meanings of important suttas have been obliterated by the tendency to interpret the references to consciousness in such contexts as the final occurrence of consciousness in an arahant's life - carimaka vi˝˝āṇa.
What is called the cessation of consciousness has a deeper sense here. It means the cessation of the specifically prepared consciousness, abhisaṅkhata vi˝˝āṇa. An arahant's experience of the cessation of consciousness is at the same time the experience of the cessation of name-and-form. Therefore, we can attribute a deeper significance to the above verses.
In support of this interpretation, we can quote the following verse in the Munisutta of the Sutta Nipāta:
Saṅkhāya vatthūni pamāya bījaṃ,
sineham assa nānuppavecche,
sa ve munī jātikhayantadassī,
takkaṃ pahāya na upeti saṅkhaṃ.
"Having surveyed the field and measured the seed,
He waters it not for moisture,
That sage in full view of birth's end,
Lets go of logic and comes not within reckoning."
By virtue of his masterly knowledge of the fields and his estimate of the seed of consciousness, he does not moisten it with craving. Thereby he sees the end of birth and transcends logic and worldly convention. This too shows that the deeper implications of the MahāNidānasutta, concerning the descent of consciousness into the mother's womb, have not been sufficiently appreciated so far.
Anusaya, or latency, is a word of special significance. What is responsible for rebirth, or punabbhava, is craving, which very often has the epithet ponobhavikā attached to it. The latency to craving is particularly instrumental in giving one yet another birth to fare on in saṃsāra. There is also a tendency to ignorance, which forms the basis of the latency to craving. It is the tendency to get attached to worldly concepts, without understanding them for what they are. That tendency is a result of ignorance in the worldlings and it is in itself a latency. In the sutta terminology the word nissaya is often used to denote it. The cognate word nissita is also used alongside. It means 'one who associates something', while nissaya means 'association'.
As a matter of fact, here it does not have the same sense as the word has in its common usage. It goes deeper, to convey the idea of 'leaning on' something. Leaning on is also a form of association. Worldlings have a tendency to tenaciously grasp the concepts in worldly usage, to cling to them dogmatically and lean on them. They believe that the words they use have a reality of their own, that they are categorically true in their own right. Their attitude towards concepts is tinctured by craving, conceit and views.
We come across this word nissita in quite a number of important suttas. It almost sounds like a topic of meditation. In the Channovādasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya there is a cryptic passage, which at a glance looks more or less like a riddle:
Nissitassa calitaṃ, anissitassa calitaṃ natthi. Calite asati passaddhi, passaddhiyā sati nati na hoti, natiyā asati āgatigati na hoti, āgatigatiyā asati cutūpapāto na hoti, cutūpapāte asati nev'idha na huraṃ na ubhayamantare. Es' ev' anto dukhassa.
"To the one attached, there is wavering. To the unattached one, there is no wavering. When there is no wavering, there is calm. When there is calm, there is no inclination. When there is no inclination, there is no coming and going. When there is no coming and going, there is no death and birth. When there is no death and birth, there is neither a 'here' nor a 'there' nor a 'between the two'. This itself is the end of suffering."
It looks as if the ending of suffering is easy enough. On the face of it, the passage seems to convey this much. To the one who leans on something, there is wavering or movement. He is perturbable. Though the first sentence speaks about the one attached, the rest of the passage is about the unattached one. That is to say, the one released. So here we see the distinction between the two. The one attached is movable, whereas the unattached one is not. When there is no wavering or perturbation, there is calm. When there is calm, there is no inclination. The word nati usually means 'bending'. So when there is calm, there is no bending or inclination. When there is no bending or inclination, there is no coming and going. When there is no coming and going, there is no passing away or reappearing. When there is neither a passing away nor a reappearing, there is neither a 'here', nor a 'there', nor any position in between. This itself is the end of suffering.
The sutta passage, at a glance, appears like a jumble of words. It starts by saying something about the one attached, nissita. It is limited to just one sentence: 'To one attached, there is wavering.' But we can infer that, due to his wavering and unsteadiness or restlessness, there is inclination, nati. The key word of the passage is nati. Because of that inclination or bent, there is a coming and going. Given the twin concept of coming and going, there is the dichotomy between passing away and reappearing, cuti/uppatti. When these two are there, the two concepts 'here' and 'there' also come in. And there is a 'between the two' as well. Wherever there are two ends, there is also a middle. So it seems that in this particular context the word nati has a special significance.
The person who is attached is quite unlike the released person. Because he is not released, he always has a forward bent or inclination. In fact, this is the nature of craving. It bends one forward. In some suttas dealing with the question of rebirth, such as the Kutūhalasālāsutta, craving itself is sometimes called the grasping, upādāna. So it is due to this very inclination or bent that the two concepts of coming and going, come in. Then, in accordance with them, the two concepts of passing away and reappearing, fall into place.
The idea of a journey, when viewed in the context of saṃsāra, gives rise to the idea of passing away and reappearing. Going and coming are similar to passing away and reappearing. So then, there is the implication of two places, all this indicates an attachment. There is a certain dichotomy about the terms here and there, and passing away and reappearing. Due to that dichotomous nature of the concepts, which beings tenaciously hold on to, the journeying in saṃsāra takes place in accordance with craving. As we have mentioned above, an alternation or transition occurs.
As for the released person, about whom the passage is specially concerned, his mind is free from all those conditions. To the unattached, there is no wavering. Since he has no wavering or unsteadiness, he has no inclination. As he has no inclination, there is no coming and going for him. As there is no coming and going, he has no passing away or reappearing. There being no passing away or reappearing, there is neither a here, nor a there, nor any in between. That itself is the end of suffering.
The Udāna version of the above passage has something significant about it. There the entire sutta consists of these few sentences. But the introductory part of it says that the Buddha was instructing, inciting and gladdening the monks with a Dhamma talk connected with Nibbāna: Tena kho pana samayena Bhagavā bhikkhū nibbānapaṭisaṃyuttāya dhammiyā kathāya sandasseti samādapeti samuttejeti sampahaṃseti. This is a pointer to the fact that this sermon is on Nibbāna. So the implication is that in Nibbāna the arahant's mind is free from any attachments.
There is a discourse in the Nidāna section of the Saṃyutta Nikāya, which affords us a deeper insight into the meaning of the word nissaya. It is the Kaccāyanagottasutta, which is also significant for its deeper analysis of right view. This is how the Buddha introduces the sermon:
Dvayanissito khvāyaṃ, Kaccāyana, loko yebhuyyena: atthita˝ceva natthita˝ca. Lokasamudayaṃ kho, Kaccāyana, yathābhūtaṃ sammappa˝˝āya passato yā loke natthitā sā na hoti. Lokanirodhaṃ kho, Kaccāyana, yathābhūtaṃ sammappa˝˝āya passato yā loke atthitā sā na hoti. "This world, Kaccāyana, for the most part, bases its views on two things: on existence and non-existence. Now, Kaccāyana, to one who with right wisdom sees the arising of the world as it is, the view of non-existence regarding the world does not occur. And to one who with right wisdom sees the cessation of the world as it really is, the view of existence regarding the world does not occur."
The Buddha comes out with this discourse in answer to the following question raised by the brahmin Kaccāyana: Sammā diṭṭhi, sammā diṭṭhī'ti, bhante, vuccati. Kittāvatā nu kho, bhante, sammā diṭṭhi hoti? "Lord, 'right view', 'right view', they say. But how far, Lord, is there 'right view'?"
In his answer, the Buddha first points out that the worldlings mostly base themselves on a duality, the two conflicting views of existence and non-existence, or 'is' and 'is not'. They would either hold on to the dogmatic view of eternalism, or would cling to nihilism. Now as to the right view of the noble disciple, it takes into account the process of arising as well as the process of cessation, and thereby avoids both extremes. This is the insight that illuminates the middle path.
Then the Buddha goes on to give a more detailed explanation of right view: Upayupādānābhinivesavinibandho khvāyaṃ, Kaccāyana, loko yebhuyyena. Ta˝cāyaṃ upayupādānaṃ cetaso adhiṭṭhānaṃ abhinivesānusayaṃ na upeti na upādiyati nādhiṭṭhāti: 'attā me'ti. 'Dukkham eva uppajjamānaṃ uppajjati, dukkhaṃ nirujjhamānaṃ nirujjhatī'ti na kaṅkhati na vicikicchati aparapaccayā ˝āṇam ev' assa ettha hoti. Ettāvatā kho, Kaccāyana, sammā diṭṭhi hoti.
"The world, Kaccāyana, for the most part, is given to approaching, grasping, entering into and getting entangled as regards views. Whoever does not approach, grasp, and take his stand upon that proclivity towards approaching and grasping, that mental standpoint, namely the idea: 'This is my soul', he knows that what arises is just suffering and what ceases is just suffering. Thus, he is not in doubt, is not perplexed, and herein he has the knowledge that is not dependent on another. Thus far, Kaccāyana, he has right view."
The passage starts with a string of terms which has a deep philosophical significance. Upaya means 'approaching', upādāna is 'grasping', abhinivesa is 'entering into', and vinibandha is the consequent entanglement. The implication is that the worldling is prone to dogmatic involvement in concepts through the stages mentioned above in an ascending order.
The attitude of the noble disciple is then outlined in contrast to the above dogmatic approach, and what follows after it. As for him, he does not approach, grasp, or take up the standpoint of a self. The word anusaya, latency or 'lying dormant', is also brought in here to show that even the proclivity towards such a dogmatic involvement with a soul or self, is not there in the noble disciple. But what, then, is his point of view? What arises and ceases is nothing but suffering. There is no soul or self to lose, it is only a question of arising and ceasing of suffering. This, then, is the right view.
Thereafter the Buddha summarizes the discourse and brings it to a climax with an impressive declaration of his via media, the middle path based on the formula of dependent arising:
'Sabbam atthī'ti kho, Kaccāyana, ayam eko anto. 'Sabbaṃ natthī'ti ayaṃ dutiyo anto. Ete te, Kaccāyana, ubho ante anupagamma majjhena Tathāgato Dhammaṃ deseti:
Avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā, saṅkhārapaccayā vi˝˝āṇaṃ, vi˝˝āṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṃ, nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṃ, saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā taṇhā, taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho, saṅkharanirodhā vi˝˝āṇanirodho, vi˝˝āṇanirodhā nāmarūpanirodho, nāmarūpanirodhā saḷāyatananirodho, saḷāyatananirodhā phassanirodho, phassanirodhā vedanānirodho, vedanānirodhā taṇhānirodho, taṇhānirodhā upādānanirodho, upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho, bhavanirodhā jātinirodho, jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā nirujjhanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti.
"'Everything exists', Kaccāyana, is one extreme. 'Nothing exists' is the other extreme. Not approaching either of those extremes, Kaccāyana, the Tathāgata teaches the Dhamma by the middle way:
From ignorance as condition, preparations come to be; from preparations as condition, consciousness comes to be; from consciousness as condition, name-and-form comes to be; from name-and-form as condition, the six sense-bases come to be; from the six sense-bases as condition, contact comes to be; from contact as condition, feeling comes to be; from feeling as condition, craving comes to be; from craving as condition, grasping comes to be; from grasping as condition, becoming comes to be; from becoming as condition, birth comes to be; and from birth as condition, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. Such is the arising of this entire mass of suffering.
From the complete fading away and cessation of that very ignorance, there comes to be the cessation of preparations; from the cessation of preparations, there comes to be the cessation of consciousness; from the cessation of consciousness, there comes to be the cessation of name-and-form; from the cessation of name-and-form, there comes to be the cessation of the six sense-bases; from the cessation of the six sense-bases, there comes to be the cessation of contact; from the cessation of contact, there comes to be the cessation of feeling; from the cessation of feeling, there comes to be the cessation of craving; from the cessation of craving, there comes to be the cessation of grasping; from the cessation of grasping, there comes to be the cessation of becoming; from the cessation of becoming, there comes to be the cessation of birth; and from the cessation of birth, there comes to be the cessation of decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering."
It is clear from this declaration that in this context the law of dependent arising itself is called the middle path. Some prefer to call this the Buddha's metaphysical middle path, as it avoids both extremes of 'is' and 'is not'. The philosophical implications of the above passage lead to the conclusion that the law of dependent arising enshrines a certain pragmatic principle, which dissolves the antinomian conflict in the world.
It is the insight into this principle that basically distinguishes the noble disciple, who sums it up in the two words samudayo, arising, and nirodho, ceasing. The arising and ceasing of the world is for him a fact of experience, a knowledge. It is in this light that we have to understand the phrase aparappaccayā ˝āṇam ev'assa ettha hoti, "herein he has a knowledge that is not dependent on another". In other words, he is not believing in it out of faith in someone, but has understood it experientially. The noble disciple sees the arising and the cessation of the world through his own six sense bases.
In the Saṃyutta Nikāya there is a verse which presents this idea in a striking manner:
Chasu loko samuppanno,
chasu kubbati santhavaṃ,
channam eva upādāya,
chasu loko viha˝˝ati.
"In the six the world arose,
In the six it holds concourse,
On the six themselves depending,
In the six it has its woes."
The verse seems to say that the world has arisen in the six, that it has associations in the six, and that depending on those very six, the world comes to grief.
Though the commentators advance an interpretation of this six, it does not seem to get the sanction of the sutta as it is. According to them, the first line speaks of the six internal sense bases, such as the eye, ear and nose. The world is said to arise in these six internal sense bases. The second line is supposed to refer to the six external sense bases. Again the third line is interpreted with reference to the six internal sense bases, and the fourth line is said to refer to the six external sense bases. In other words, the implication is that the world arises in the six internal sense bases and associates with the six external sense bases, and that it holds on to the six internal sense bases and comes to grief in the six external sense bases.
This interpretation seems to miss the point. Even the grammar does not allow it, for if it is a case of associating 'with' the external sense bases, the instrumental case would have been used instead of the locative case, that is, chahi instead of chasu. On the other hand, the locative chasu occurs in all the three lines in question. This makes it implausible that the first two lines are referring to two different groups of sixes. It is more plausible to conclude that the reference is to the six sense bases of contact, phassāyatana, which include both the internal and the external. In fact, at least two are necessary for something to be dependently arisen. The world does not arise in the six internal bases in isolation. It is precisely in this fact that the depth of this Dhamma is to be seen.
In the Samudayasutta of the Saḷāyatana section in the Saṃyutta Nikāya this aspect of dependent arising is clearly brought out:
Cakkhu˝ca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuvi˝˝āṇaṃ, tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā taṇhā, taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
"Dependent on the eye and forms arises eye consciousness; the coming together of the three is contact; with contact as condition, arises feeling; conditioned by feeling , craving; conditioned by craving, grasping; conditioned by grasping, becoming; conditioned by becoming, birth; and conditioned by birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Thus is the arising of this entire mass of suffering."
Here the sutta starts with the arising of contact and branches off towards the standard formula of paṭicca samuppāda. Eye consciousness arises dependent on, paṭicca, two things, namely eye and forms. And the concurrence of the three is contact. This shows that two are necessary for a thing to be dependently arisen.
So in fairness to the sutta version, we have to conclude that the reference in all the four lines is to the bases of contact, comprising both the internal and the external. That is to say, we cannot discriminate between them and assert that the first line refers to one set of six, and the second line refers to another. We are forced to such a conclusion in fairness to the sutta.
So from this verse also we can see that according to the usage of the noble ones the world arises in the six sense bases. This fact is quite often expressed by the phrase ariyassa vinaye loko, the world in the noble one's discipline. According to this noble usage, the world is always defined in terms of the six sense bases, as if the world arises because of these six sense bases. This is a very deep idea. All other teachings in this Dhamma will get obscured, if one fails to understand this basic fact, namely how the concept of the world is defined in this mode of noble usage.
This noble usage reveals to us the implications of the expression udayatthagāminī pa˝˝ā, the wisdom that sees the rise and fall. About the noble disciple it is said that he is endowed with the noble penetrative wisdom of seeing the rise and fall, udayatthagāminiyā pa˝˝āya sammanāgato ariyāya nibbhedikāya. The implication is that this noble wisdom has a penetrative quality about it. This penetration is through the rigidly grasped almost impenetrable encrustation of the two dogmatic views in the world, existence and non-existence.
Now, how does that penetration come about? As already stated in the above quoted Kaccāyanasutta, when one sees the arising aspect of the world, one finds it impossible to hold the view that nothing exists in the world. His mind does not incline towards a dogmatic involvement with that view. Similarly, when he sees the cessation of the world through his own six sense bases, he sees no possibility to go to the other extreme view in the world: 'Everything exists'.
The most basic feature of this principle of dependent arising, with its penetrative quality, is the breaking down of the power of the above concepts. It is the very inability to grasp these views dogmatically that is spoken of as the abandonment of the personality view, sakkāyadiṭṭhi. The ordinary worldling is under the impression that things exist in truth and fact, but the noble disciple, because of his insight into the norm of arising and cessation, understands the arising and ceasing nature of concepts and their essencelessness or insubstantiality.
Another aspect of the same thing, in addition to what has already been said about nissaya, is the understanding of the relatedness of this to that, idappaccayatā, implicit in the law of dependent arising. In fact, we began our discussion by highlighting the significance of the term idappaccayatā. The basic principle involved, is itself often called paṭicca samuppāda. "This being, this comes to be, with the arising of this, this arises. This not being, this does not come to be. With the cessation of this, this ceases."
This insight penetrates through those extreme views. It resolves the conflict between them. But how? By removing the very premise on which it rested, and that is that there are two things. Though logicians might come out with the law of identity and the like, according to right view, the very bifurcation itself is the outcome of a wrong view. That is to say, this is only a conjoined pair. In other words, it resolves that conflict by accepting the worldly norm.
Now this is a point well worth considering. In the case of the twelve links of the formula of dependent arising, discovered by the Buddha, there is a relatedness of this to that, idappaccayatā. As for instance already illustrated above by the two links birth and decay-and-death. When birth is there, decay-and-death come to be, with the arising of birth, decay-and-death arise (and so on). The fact that this relatedness itself is the eternal law, is clearly revealed by the following statement of the Buddha in the Nidānasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya:
Avijjāpaccayā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā. Ya tatra tathatā avitathatā ana˝˝athatā idappaccayatā, ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, paṭiccasamuppādo. "From ignorance as condition, preparations come to be. That suchness therein, the invariability, the not-otherwiseness, the relatedness of this to that, this, monks, is called dependent arising."
Here the first two links have been taken up to illustrate the principle governing their direct relation. Now let us examine the meaning of the terms used to express that relation. Tathā means 'such' or 'thus', and is suggestive of the term yathābhūta˝āṇadassana, the knowledge and vision of things as they are. The correlatives yathā and tathā express between them the idea of faithfulness to the nature of the world. So tathatā asserts the validity of the law of dependent arising, as a norm in accordance with nature. Avitathatā, with its double negative, reaffirms that validity to the degree of invariability. Ana˝˝athatā, or not-otherwiseness, makes it unchallengeable, as it were. It is a norm beyond contradiction.
When a conjoined pair is accepted as such, there is no conflict between the two. But since this idea can well appear as some sort of a puzzle, we shall try to illustrate it with a simile. Suppose two bulls, a black one and a white one, are bound together at the neck and allowed to graze in the field as a pair. This is sometimes done to prevent them from straying far afield. Now out of the pair, if the white bull pulls towards the stream, while the black one is pulling towards the field, there is a conflict. The conflict is not due to the bondage, at least not necessarily due to the bondage. It is because the two are pulling in two directions. Supposing the two bulls, somehow, accept the fact that they are in bondage and behave amicably. When then the white bull pulls towards the stream, the black one keeps him company with equanimity, though he is not in need of a drink. And when the black bull is grazing, the white bull follows him along with equanimity, though he is not inclined to eat.
Similarly, in this case too, the conflict is resolved by accepting the pair-wise combination as a conjoined pair. That is how the Buddha solved this problem. But still the point of this simile might not be clear enough. So let us come back to the two links, birth and decay-and-death, which we so often dragged in for purposes of clarification. So long as one does not accept the fact that these two links, birth and decay-and-death, are a conjoined pair, one would see between them a conflict. Why? Because one grasps birth as one end, and tries to remove the other end, which one does not like, namely decay-and-death. One is trying to separate birth from decay-and-death. But this happens to be a conjoined pair. "Conditioned by birth, monks, is decay-and-death." This is the word of the Buddha. Birth and decay-and-death are related to each other.
The word jarā, or decay, on analysis would make this clear. Usually by jarā we mean old age. The word has connotations of senility and decrepitude, but the word implies both growth and decay, as it sets in from the moment of one's birth itself. Only, there is a possible distinction according to the standpoint taken. This question of a standpoint or a point of view is very important at this juncture. This is something one should assimilate with a meditative attention. Let us bring up a simile to make this clear.
Now, for instance, there could be a person who makes his living by selling the leaves of a particular kind of tree. Suppose another man sells the flowers of the same tree, to make his living. And yet another sells the fruits, while a fourth sells the timber. If we line them up and put to them the question, pointing to that tree: 'Is this tree mature enough?', we might sometimes get different answers. Why? Each would voice his own commercial point of view regarding the degree of maturity of the tree. For instance, one who sells flowers would say that the tree is too old, if the flowering stage of the tree is past.
Similarly, the concept of decay or old age can change according to the standpoint taken up. From beginning to end, it is a process of decay. But we create an artificial boundary between youth and old age. This again shows that the two are a pair mutually conjoined. Generally, the worldlings are engaged in an attempt to separate the two in this conjoined pair. Before the Buddha came into the scene, all religious teachers were trying to hold on to birth, while rejecting decay-and-death. But it was a vain struggle. It is like the attempt of the miserly millionaire Kosiya to eat rice-cakes alone, to cite another simile.
According to that instructive story, the millionaire Kosiya, an extreme miser, once developed a strong desire to eat rice-cakes. As he did not wish to share them with anyone else, he climbed up to the topmost storey of his mansion with his wife and got her to cook rice-cakes for him. To teach him a lesson, Venerable Mahā Moggallāna, who excelled in psychic powers, went through the air and appeared at the window as if he is on his alms round. Kosiya, wishing to dismiss this intruder with a tiny rice-cake, asked his wife to put a little bit of cake dough into the pan. She did so, but it became a big rice-cake through the venerable thera's psychic power. Further attempts to make tinier rice-cakes ended up in producing ever bigger and bigger ones. In the end, Kosiya thought of dismissing the monk with just one cake, but to his utter dismay, all the cakes got joined to each other to form a string of cakes. The couple then started pulling this string of cakes in either direction with all their might, to separate just one from it. But without success. At last they decided to let go and give up, and offered the entire string of cakes to the venerable Thera.
The Buddha's solution to the above problem is a similar let go-ism and giving up. It is a case of giving up all assets, sabbūpadhipaṭinissagga. You cannot separate these links from one another. Birth and decay-and-death are intertwined. This is a conjoined pair. So the solution here, is to let go. All those problems are due to taking up a standpoint. Therefore the kind of view sanctioned in this case, is one that leads to detachment and dispassion, one that goes against the tendency to grasp and hold on. It is by grasping and holding on that one comes into conflict with Māra.
Now going by the story of the millionaire Kosiya, one might think that the Buddha was defeated by Māra. But the truth of the matter is that it is Māra who suffered defeat by this sort of giving up. It is a very subtle point. Māra's forte lies in seizing and grabbing. He is always out to challenge. Sometimes he takes delight in hiding himself to take one by surprise, to drive terror and cause horripilation. So when Māra comes round to grab, if we can find some means of foiling his attempt, or make it impossible for him to grab, then Māra will have to accept defeat.
Now let us examine the Buddha's solution to this question. There are in the world various means of preventing others from grabbing something we possess. We can either hide our property in an inaccessible place, or adopt security measures, or else we can come to terms and sign a treaty with the enemy. But all these measures can sometimes fail. However, there is one unfailing method, which in principle is bound to succeed. A method that prevents all possibilities of grabbing. And that is - letting go, giving up. When one lets go, there is nothing to grab. In a tug-of-war, when someone is pulling at one end with all his might, if the other suddenly lets go of its hold, one can well imagine the extent of the former's discomfiture, let alone victory. It was such a discomfiture that fell to Māra's lot, when the Buddha applied this extraordinary solution. All this goes to show the importance of such terms as nissaya and idappaccayatā in understanding this Dhamma.
We have already taken up the word nissaya for comment. Another aspect of its significance is revealed by the Satipaṭṭhānasutta. Some parts of this sutta, though well known, are wonderfully deep. There is a certain thematic paragraph, which occurs at the end of each subsection in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta. For instance, in the section on the contemplation relating to body, kāyānupasssanā, we find the following paragraph:
Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati, bahiddhā vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati, ajjhattabahiddhā vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati; samudayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati, vayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati, samudayavayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati; 'atthi kāyo'ti vā pan'assa sati paccupaṭṭhitā hoti, yāvadeva ˝āṇamattāya paṭissatimattāya; anissito ca viharati, na ca ki˝ci loke upādiyati.
"In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body externally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body internally and externally. Or else he abides contemplating the arising nature in the body, or he abides contemplating the dissolving nature in the body, or he abides contemplating the arising and dissolving nature in the body. Or else the mindfulness that 'there is a body' is established in him only to the extent necessary for just knowledge and further mindfulness. And he abides independent and does not cling to anything in the world."
A similar paragraph occurs throughout the sutta under all the four contemplations, body, feeling, mind and mind objects. As a matter of fact, it is this paragraph that is called satipaṭṭhāna bhāvanā, or meditation on the foundation of mindfulness. The preamble to this paragraph introduces the foundation itself, or the setting up of mindfulness as such. The above paragraph, on the other hand, deals with what pertains to insight. It is the field of insight proper. If we examine this paragraph, here too we will find a set of conjoined or twin terms:
"In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, or he abides contemplating the body externally", and then: "he abides contemplating the body both internally and externally." Similarly: "He abides contemplating the arising nature in the body, or he abides contemplating the dissolving nature in the body", and then: "he abides contemplating both the arising and dissolving nature in the body."
"Or else the mindfulness that 'there is a body' is established in him only to the extent necessary for knowledge and remembrance." This means that for the meditator even the idea 'there is a body', that remembrance, is there just for the purpose of further development of knowledge and mindfulness.
"And he abides independent and does not cling to anything in the world." Here too, the word used is anissita, independent, or not leaning towards anything. He does not cling to anything in the world. The word nissaya says something more than grasping. It means 'leaning on' or 'associating'.
This particular thematic paragraph in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta is of paramount importance for insight meditation. Here, too, there is the mention of internal, ajjhatta, and external, bahiddhā. When one directs one's attention to one's own body and another's body separately, one might sometimes take these two concepts, internal and external, too seriously with a dogmatic attitude. One might think that there is actually something that could be called one's own or another's. But then the mode of attention next mentioned unifies the two, as internal-external, ajjhattabahiddhā, and presents them like the conjoined pair of bulls. And what does it signify? These two are not to be viewed as two extremes, they are related to each other.
Now let us go a little deeper into this interrelation. The farthest limit of the internal is the nearest limit of the external. The farthest limit of the external is the nearest limit of the internal. More strictly rendered, ajjhatta means inward and bahiddhā means outward. So here we have the duality of an inside and an outside. One might think that the word ajjhattika refers to whatever is organic. Nowadays many people take in artificial parts into their bodies. But once acquired, they too become internal. That is why, in this context ajjhattika has a deeper significance than its usual rendering as 'one's own'.
Whatever it may be, the farthest limit of the ajjhatta remains the nearest limit of the bahiddhā. Whatever portion one demarcates as one's own, just adjoining it and at its very gate is bahiddhā. And from the point of view of bahiddhā, its farthest limit and at its periphery is ajjhatta. This is a conjoined pair. These two are interrelated. So the implication is that these two are not opposed to each other. That is why, by attending to them both together, as ajjhattabahiddhā, that dogmatic involvement with a view is abandoned. Here we have an element of reconciliation, which prevents adherence to a view. This is what fosters the attitude of anissita, unattached.
So the two, ajjhatta and bahiddhā, are neighbours. Inside and outside as concepts are neighbours to each other. It is the same as in the case of arising and ceasing, mentioned above. This fact has already been revealed to some extent by the Kaccāyanagottasutta.
Now if we go for an illustration, we have the word udaya at hand in samudaya. Quite often this word is contrasted with atthagama, going down, in the expression udayatthagaminī pa˝˝ā, the wisdom that sees the rise and fall. We can regard these two as words borrowed from everyday life. Udaya means sunrise, and atthagama is sunset. If we take this itself as an illustration, the farthest limit of the forenoon is the nearest limit of the afternoon. The farthest limit of the afternoon is the nearest limit of the forenoon. And here again we see a case of neighbourhood. When one understands the neighbourly nature of the terms udaya and atthagama, or samudaya and vaya, and regards them as interrelated by the principle of idappaccayatā, one penetrates them both by that mode of contemplating the rise and fall of the body together, samudayavayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati, and develops a penetrative insight.
What comes next in the satipaṭṭhāna passage, is the outcome or net result of that insight. "The mindfulness that 'there is a body' is established in him only to the extent necessary for pure knowledge and further mindfulness", 'atthi kāyo'ti vā pan'assa sati pacupaṭṭhitā hoti, yāvadeva ˝āṇamattāya paṭissatimattāya. At that moment one does not take even the concept of body seriously. Even the mindfulness that 'there is a body' is established in that meditator only for the sake of, yavadeva, clarity of knowledge and accomplishment of mindfulness. The last sentence brings out the net result of that way of developing insight: "He abides independent and does not cling to anything in the world."
Not only in the section on the contemplation of the body, but also in the sections on feelings, mind, and mind objects in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta, we find this mode of insight development. None of the objects, taken up for the foundation of mindfulness, is to be grasped tenaciously. Only their rise and fall is discerned. So it seems that, what is found in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta, is a group of concepts. These concepts serve only as a scaffolding for the systematic development of mindfulness and knowledge. The Buddha often compared his Dhamma to a raft: nittharaṇatthāya no gahaṇatthāya, "for crossing over and not for holding on to". Accordingly, what we have here are so many scaffoldings for the up-building of mindfulness and knowledge.
Probably due to the lack of understanding of this deep philosophy enshrined in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta, many sects of Buddhism took up these concepts in a spirit of dogmatic adherence. That dogmatic attitude of clinging on is like the attempt to cling on to the scaffoldings and to live on in them. So with reference to the Satipaṭṭhānasutta also, we can understand the importance of the term nissaya.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
Towards the end of our last sermon, we discussed, to some extent, a special mode of attention, regarding the four objects of contemplation in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta - body, feelings, mind, and mind-objects. That discussion might have revealed a certain middle path indicated by the Buddha.
We drew attention to a thematic paragraph, occurring throughout the Satipaṭṭhānasutta, which outlines a method of using objects and concepts for satipaṭṭhāna meditation without dogmatic involvement. This leads the meditator to a particular kind of attitude, summed up by the concluding phrase: "He abides independent and does not cling to anything in the world", anissito ca viharati, na ca ki˝ci loke upādiyati.
By way of clarification, we brought in the simile of a scaffolding for a building, that here the concepts only serve as a scaffolding for building up mindfulness and knowledge. Talking about the scaffolding, we are reminded of two different attitudes, namely, the attitude of leaning on to and dwelling in the scaffolding itself, and the enlightened attitude of merely utilizing it for the purpose of erecting a building.
For further explanation of this technique, we may take up the two terms parāmasana and sammasana. It might be better to distinguish the meanings of these two terms also with the help of a simile. As for a simile, let us take up the razor, which is such a useful requisite in our meditative life. There is a certain special way in sharpening a razor. With the idea of sharpening the razor, if one grabs it tightly and rubs it on the sharpening stone, it will only become blunt. Parāmasana, grasping, grabbing, is something like that.
What then is the alternative? A more refined and softer approach is required as meant by the term sammasana. There is a proper mode of doing it. One has to hold the razor in a relaxed way, as if one is going to throw it away. One holds it lightly, ready to let go of it at any time. But, of course, with mindfulness. The wrist, also, is not rigid, but relaxed. Hand is supple at the joints and easy to swing. Then with that readiness, one sharpens the razor, sliding it smoothly on the stone. First: up, up, up, then: down, down, down, and then: up down, up down, up down. The third combined movement ensures that those parts of the blade still untouched by the stone will also get duly sharpened.
It is in the same manner that the razor of insight wisdom has to be whetted on the sharpening stone of the Satipaṭṭhānasutta. Inward, inward, inward - outward, outward, outward - inward outward, inward outward. Or else: arising, arising, arising - ceasing, ceasing, ceasing - arising ceasing, arising ceasing.
This is an illustration for the method of reflection, or sammasana, introduced by the Buddha in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta. Words and concepts have to be made use of, for attaining Nibbāna. But here the aim is only the up-building of mindfulness and knowledge. Once their purpose is served, they can be dismantled without being a bother to the mind. This is the significance of the concluding phrase "He abides independent and does not cling to anything in the world". 
There is another sutta in which the Buddha has touched upon this same point in particular. It is the Samudayasutta in the Satipaṭṭhānasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. In that sutta, the Buddha has proclaimed the arising and the going down of the four foundations of mindfulness. He begins by saying: "Monks, I shall teach you the arising and the going down of the four foundations of mindfulness". Catunnaṃ, bhikkhave, satipaṭṭhānānaṃ samudaya˝ca atthagama˝ca desessāmi.
He goes on to say: Ko ca, bhikkhave, kāyassa samudayo? Āhārasamudayā kāyassa samudayo, āhāranirodhā kāyassa atthagamo. "What, monks, is the arising of the body? With the arising of nutriment is the arising of the body and with the cessation of the nutriment is the going down of the body."
Similarly: Phassasamudayā vedanānaṃ samudayo, phassanirodhā vedanānaṃ atthagamo. "With the arising of contact is the arising of feeling, and with the cessation of contact is the going down of feeling".
And then: Nāmarūpasamudayā cittassa samudayo, nāmarūpanirodhā cittassa atthagamo. "With the arising of name-and-form is the arising of the mind, and with the cessation of name-and-form is the going down of the mind".
And lastly: Manasikārasamudayā dhammānaṃ samudayo, manasikāranirodhā dhammānaṃ atthagamo. "With the arising of attention is the arising of mind-objects, and with the ceasing of attention is the going down of mind-objects".
This, too, is an important discourse, well worth remembering, because here the Buddha is dealing with the arising and cessation, or arising and going down, of the four objects used for establishing mindfulness.
As we know, the concept of nutriment in this Dhamma is much broader than the worldly concept of food. It does not imply merely the ordinary food, for which the term used is kabaliṅkārāhāra, or material food. Taken in a deeper sense, it includes the other three kinds of nutriment as well, namely phassa, or contact, manosa˝cetanā, or volition, and vi˝˝āṇa, or consciousness. These four together account for the concept of body as such. Therefore, due to these four there comes to be a body, and with their cessation the body ends. So also in the case of feeling. We all know that the arising of feeling is due to contact.
The reference to name-and-form in this context might not be clear enough at once, due to various definitions of name-and-form, or nāma-rūpa. Here, the reason for the arising of the mind is said to be name-and-form. Mind is said to arise because of name-and-form, and it is supposed to go down with the cessation of name-and-form.
The fact that the mind-objects arise due to attention is noteworthy. All the mind-objects mentioned in the fourth section of contemplation arise when there is attention. And they go down when attention is not there. In other words, attending makes objects out of them. This way, we are reminded that, apart from making use of these words and concepts for the purpose of attaining Nibbāna, there is nothing worth holding on to or clinging to dogmatically. So if a meditator works with this aim in mind, he will be assured of a state of mind that is independent and clinging-free, anissita, anupādāna.
One marvellous quality of the Buddha's teaching emerges from this discussion. A mind-object is something that the mind hangs on to as the connotations of the word ārammaṇa (cp. ālambhana) suggest. But because of the mode of insight wisdom outlined here, because of the middle path approach, even the tendency to 'hang-on' is finally done away with and the object is penetrated through. Despite the above connotations of 'hanging on' (ārammaṇa), the object is transcended. Transcendence in its highest sense is not a case of surpassing, as is ordinarily understood. Instead of leaving behind, it penetrates through. Here then, we have a transcendence that is in itself a penetration.
So the terms anissita and anupādāna seem to have a significance of their own. More of it comes to light in quite a number of other suttas. Particularly in the Dvayatānupassanāsutta of the Sutta Nipāta we come across the following two verses, which throw more light on these two terms:
Anissito na calati,
nissito ca upādiyaṃ,
Etam ādīnavaṃ ˝atvā,
sato bhikkhu paribbaje.
"The unattached one wavers not,
But the one attached, clinging on,
Does not get beyond saṃsāra,
Which is an alternation between a this-ness and an otherwise-ness
Knowing this peril,
The great danger, in attachments or supports
Let the monk fare along mindfully,
Resting on nothing, clinging to nothing."
Caught up in the dichotomy of saṃsāric existence, which alternates between this-ness and otherwise-ness, one is unable to transcend it, so long as there is attachment and clinging. Nissayas are the supports that encourage clinging in the form of dogmatic adherence to views. Seeing the peril and the danger in them, a mindful monk has no recourse to them. This gives one an idea of the attitude of an arahant. His mind is free from enslavement to the conjoined pairs of relative concepts.
This fact is borne out by certain Canonical statements, which at first sight might appear as riddles. The two last sections of the Sutta Nipāta, the Aṭṭhakavagga and the Pārāyanavagga in particular, contain verses which are extremely deep. In the Aṭṭhakavagga, one often comes across apparently contradictory pairs of terms, side by side. About the arahant it is said that: "he neither grasps nor gives up", nādeti na nirassati. "There is nothing taken up or rejected by him", attaṃ nirattaṃ na hi tassa atthi.
By the way, the word attaṃ in this context is derived from ādātta (ā + dā), by syncopation. It should not be mistaken as a reference to attā, or soul. Similarly, niratta is from as, to throw, nirasta, conveying the idea of giving up or putting down.
There is nothing taken up or given up by the arahant. Other such references to the arahant's attitude are: Na rāgarāgī na virāgaratto, "he is neither attached to attachment, nor attached to detachment". Na hi so rajjati no virajjati, "He is neither attached nor detached".
It is in order to explain why such references are used that we took all this trouble to discuss at length the significance of such terms as nissaya. Probably due to a lack of understanding in this respect, the deeper meanings of such suttas have got obscured. Not only that, even textual corruption through distorted variant readings has set in, because they appeared like riddles. However, the deeper sense of these suttas sometimes emerges from certain strikingly strange statements like the following found in the Khajjanīyasutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. The reference here is to the arahant.
Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, bhikkhu neva ācināti na apacināti, apacinitvā ṭhito neva pajahati na upādiyati, pajahitvā ṭhito neva viseneti na usseneti, visenetvā ṭhito neva vidhūpeti na sandhūpeti. "Monks, such a monk is called one who neither amasses nor diminishes; already diminished as he is, he neither gives up nor grasps; already given up as he is, he neither disbands nor binds together; already disbanded as he is, he neither exorcizes nor proficiates."
Even to one who does not understand the language, the above quotation would sound enigmatic. Even the rendering of the terms used here is not an easy matter, because of the nuances they seem to convey. We could perhaps say that such a monk neither amasses or accumulates, nor diminishes. Since he is already diminished, presumably as regards the five aggregates, he neither abandons nor grasps anew. Since the giving up is complete, he neither binds together or enlists (note the word sena, army), nor disbands. Disbanding (if not 'disarmament'), being complete, there is neither exorcizing or smoking out, nor proficiating or inviting. The coupling of these terms and their peculiar employment is suggestive of the arahant's freedom from the dichotomy.
In the Brāhmaṇavagga of the Dhammapada too, we come across a similar enigmatic verse:
Yassa pāraṃ apāraṃ vā,
pārāpāraṃ na vijjati,
tam ahaṃ brūmi brāhmaṇaṃ.
"For whom there is neither a farther shore,
Nor a hither shore, nor both,
Who is undistressed and unfettered,
Him I call a Brahmin."
In this context the word brāhmaṇa refers to the arahant. Here too, it is said that the arahant has neither a farther shore, nor a hither shore, nor both. This might sometimes appear as a problem. Our usual concept of an arahant is of one who has crossed over the ocean of saṃsāra and is standing on the other shore. But here is something enigmatic.
We come across a similar sutta in the Sutta Nipāta also, namely its very first, the Uragasutta. The extraordinary feature of this sutta is the recurrence of the same refrain throughout its seventeen verses. The refrain is:
So bhikkhu jahāti orapāraṃ,
urago jiṇṇamiva tacaṃ purāṇaṃ.
"That monk forsakes the hither and the tither,
Like a snake its slough that doth wither".
This simile of the slough, or the worn-out skin of the snake, is highly significant. To quote one instance:
Yo nājjhagamā bhavesu sāraṃ,
vicinaṃ pupphamiva udumbaresu,
so bhikkhu jahāti orapāraṃ,
urago jiṇṇamiva tacaṃ purāṇaṃ.
"That monk who sees no essence in existence,
Like one seeking flowers in Udumbara trees,
Will give up the hither as well as the thither,
Like the snake its slough that doth wither".
The arahant has abandoned his attachment to existence. As such, he is free from the bondage of those conjoined terms in worldly usage. So the arahant looks at the worldly usage in the same way as a snake would turn back and look at the worn-out skin he has sloughed off. Sometimes we see a snake moving about with a remnant of its slough hanging on. We might even think that the snake is carrying its slough around. It is the same in the case of the arahants.
Now there is this term sa-upādisesa Nibbāna dhātu. Taking the term at its face value, some might think that the clinging is not yet over for the arahants - that there is still a little bit left. The arahant, though he has attained release and realized Nibbāna, so long as he is living in the world, has to relate to the external objects in the world somehow through his five senses, making use of them. Seeing it, some might conclude that it is because of some residual clinging. But we have to understand this in the light of the simile of the worn-out skin. In the case of the arahant, too, the sloughed off skin is still hanging on.
As a sidelight we may cite a remark of Venerable Sāriputta: Iminā pūtikāyena aṭṭiyāmi harāyāmi jigucchāmi, "I am harassed and repelled by this body, I am ashamed of it". This is because the body is for him something already abandoned. All this goes to show that the arahant has an unattached, unclinging attitude.
Linguistic usage, which is a special feature of existence, is enlivened by the cravings, conceits, and views with which it is grasped. Worldlings thrive on it, whereas the arahants are free from it. This is the upshot of the above discussion on the terms anusaya and nissaya.
Yet another important term that should receive attention in any discussion on Nibbāna is āsava. This is because the arahant is often called a khīṇāsava, one whose āsavas are extinct. Āsavakkhayo, extinction of āsavas, is an epithet of Nibbāna. So the distinct feature of an arahant is his extinction of āsavas.
Now, what does āsava mean? In ordinary life, this word is used to denote fermentation or liquor that has got fermented for a long time. If there is even a dreg of ferment in a vessel, it is enough to cause fermentation for any suitable raw material put into it. So also are the āsavas. They are like the residual dregs of the ebullient mass of defilements in beings, which have undergone fermentation for a long, long time in saṃsāra.
Very often, āsavas are said to be of three kinds, as kāmāsavā, bhavāsavā, and avijjāsavā. The term āsava in this context is usually rendered as 'influxes'. We may understand them as certain intoxicating influences, which create a world of sense-desires, a stupor that gives a notion of existence and leads to ignorance. These influxes are often said to have the nature of infiltrating into the mind. Sometimes a fourth type of influxes, diṭṭhāsavā, is also mentioned. But this can conveniently be subsumed under avijjāsavā.
The extinction of influxes becomes a distinctive characteristic of an arahant, as it ensures complete freedom. One could be said to have attained complete freedom only if one's mind is free from these influxes. It is because these influxes are capable of creating intoxication again and again.
The immense importance of the extinction of influxes, and how it accounts for the worthiness of an arahant, is sometimes clearly brought out. The ultimate aim of the Buddha's teaching is one that in other systems of thought is generally regarded as attainable only after death. The Buddha, on the other hand, showed a way to its realization here and now.
As a matter of fact, even brahmins like Pokkharasāti went about saying that it is impossible for a human being to attain something supramundane: Katham'hi nāma manussabhūto uttarimanussadhammā alamariya˝āṇadassanavisesaṃ ˝assati vā dakkhati vā sacchi vā karissati? "How can one as a human being know or see or realize a supramundane state, an extraordinary knowledge and vision befitting the noble ones?" They thought that such a realization is possible only after death. Immortality, in other systems of thought, is always an after death experience.
Now the realization of the extinction of influxes, on the other hand, gives a certain assurance about the future. It is by this extinction of influxes that one wins to the certitude that there is no more birth after this. Khīṇā jāti,  extinct is birth! Certitude about something comes only with realization. In fact, the term sacchikiriya implies a seeing with one's own eyes, as the word for eye, akśi, is implicit in it.
However, everything cannot be verified by seeing with one's own eyes. The Buddha has pointed out that there are four ways of realization or verification:
Cattāro me, bhikkhave, sacchikaraṇīyā dhammā. Katame cattaro?Atthi, bhikkhave, dhammā kāyena sacchikaraṇīyā; atthi, bhikkhave, dhammā satiyā sacchikaraṇīyā; atthi, bhikkhave, dhammā cakkhunā sacchikaraṇīyā; atthi, bhikkhave, dhammā pa˝˝āya sacchikaraṇīyā.
"Monks, there are these four realizable things. What four? There are things, monks, that are realizable through the body; there are things, monks, that are realizable through memory; there are things, monks, that are realizable through the eye; there are things, monks, that are realizable through wisdom."
By way of explanation, the Buddha says that the things realizable through the body are the eight deliverances, the things realizable through memory are one's former habitations, the things realizable through the eye are the death and rebirth of beings, and what is realizable through wisdom, is the extinction of influxes.
One's former lives cannot be seen with one's own eyes by running into the past. It is possible only by purifying one's memory and directing it backwards. Similarly, the death and rebirth of beings can be seen, as if with one's fleshly eye, by the divine eye, by those who have developed it. So also the fact of extirpating all influxes is to be realized by wisdom, and not by any other means. The fact that the influxes of sensuality, existence, ignorance, and views, will not flow in again, can be verified only by wisdom. That is why special mention is made of Nibbāna as something realizable.
Because Nibbāna is said to be something realizable, some are of the opinion that nothing should be predicated about it. What is the reason for this special emphasis on its realizability? It is to bring into sharp relief the point of divergence, since the Buddha taught a way of realizing here and now something that in other religions was considered impossible.
What was it that they regarded impossible to be realized? The cessation of existence, or bhavanirodha. How can one be certain here and now that this existence has ceased? This might sometimes appear as a big puzzle. But all the same, the arahant experiences the cessation of existence as a realization. That is why he even gives expression to it as: Bhavanirodho Nibbānaṃ, "cessation of existence is Nibbāna".
It comes about by this extinction of influxes. The very existence of 'existence' is especially due to the flowing in of influxes of existence. What is called 'existence' is not the apparent process of existing visible to others. It is something that pertains to one's own mental continuum.
For instance, when it is said that some person is in the world of sense desires, one might sometimes imagine it as living surrounded by objects of sense pleasure. But that is not always the case. It is the existence in a world of sense desires, built up by sensuous thoughts. It is the same with the realms of form and formless realms. Even those realms can be experienced and attained while living in this world itself.
Similarly, it is possible for one to realize the complete cessation of this existence while living in this very world. It is accomplished by winning to the realization that the influxes of sense desires, existence, and ignorance, no longer influence one's mind.
So all this goes to show the high degree of importance attached to the word āsava. The Sammādiṭṭhisutta of the Majjhima Nikāya seems to pose a problem regarding the significance of this term. At one place in the sutta it is said that the arising of ignorance is due to the arising of influxes and that the cessation of ignorance is due to the cessation of influxes: Āsavasamudayā avijjāsamudayo, āsavanirodhā avijjānirodho.
If the sutta says only this much, it will not be such a problem, because it appears as a puzzle to many nowadays, why ignorance is placed first. Various reasons are adduced and arguments put forward as to why it is stated first out of the twelve factors. The fact that there is still something to precede it could therefore be some consolation.
But then, a little way off, in the selfsame sutta, we read: Avijjāsamudayā āsavasamudayo, avijjanirodhā āsavanirodho,  "with the arising of ignorance is the arising of influxes, with the cessation of ignorance is the cessation of influxes". Apparently this contradicts the previous statement. The preacher of this discourse, Venerable Sāriputta, is not one who contradicts himself. So most probably there is some deep reason behind this.
Another problem crops up, since ignorance is also counted among the different kinds of influxes. This makes our puzzle all the more deep. But this state of affairs could best be understood with the help of an illustration. It is in order to explain a certain fascinating behaviour of the mind that even arahants of great wisdom had to make seemingly contradictory statements.
We have to draw in at this juncture a very important discourse in the Saṃyutta Nikāya, which is a marvel in itself. It comes in the section on the aggregates, Khandhasaṃyutta, as the second Gaddulasutta. Here the Buddha makes the following impressive declaration:
'Diṭṭhaṃ vo, bhikkhave, caraṇaṃ nāma cittan'ti?' 'Evaṃ, bhante.' 'Tampi kho, bhikkhave, caraṇaṃ nāma cittaṃ citteneva cintitaṃ. Tenapi kho, bhikkhave, caraṇena cittena citta˝˝eva cittataraṃ. Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, abhikkhaṇaṃ sakaṃ cittaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ: Dīgharattam idaṃ cittaṃ saṃkiliṭṭhaṃ rāgena dosena mohenā'ti. Cittasaṃkilesā, bhikkhave, sattā saṃkilissanti, cittavodānā sattā visujjhanti.
Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, a˝˝aṃ ekanikāyampi samanupassāmi evaṃ cittaṃ, yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, tiracchānagatā pāṇā. Tepi kho, bhikkhave, tiracchānagatā pāṇā citteneva cintitā. Tehipi kho, bhikkhave, tiracchānagatehi pāṇehi citta˝˝eva cittataraṃ. Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, bhikkhunā abhikkhaṇaṃ sakaṃ cittaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ: Dīgharattam idaṃ cittaṃ saṃkiliṭṭhaṃ rāgena dosena mohenā'ti. Cittasaṃkilesā, bhikkhave, sattā saṃkilissanti, cittavodānā sattā visujjhanti.'
"'Monks, have you seen a picture called a movie (caraṇa)?' 'Yes, Lord.' 'Monks, even that picture called a movie is something thought out by the mind. But this mind, monks, is more picturesque than that picture called a movie. Therefore, monks, you should reflect moment to moment on your own mind with the thought: For a long time has this mind been defiled by lust, hate, and delusion. By the defilement of the mind, monks, are beings defiled. By the purification of the mind, are beings purified.
Monks, I do not see any other class of beings as picturesque as beings in the animal realm. But those beings in the animal realm, monks, are also thought out by the mind. And the mind, monks, is far more picturesque than those beings in the animal realm. Therefore, monks, should a monk reflect moment to moment on one's own mind with the thought: For a long time has this mind been defiled by lust, hate, and delusion. By the defilement of the mind, monks, are beings defiled. By the purification of the mind, are beings purified."
Here the Buddha gives two illustrations to show how marvellous this mind is. First he asks the monks whether they have seen a picture called caraṇa. Though the word may be rendered by movie, it is not a motion picture of the sort we have today. According to the commentary, it is some kind of variegated painting done on a mobile canvas-chamber, illustrative of the results of good and evil karma. Whatever it may be, it seems to have been something marvellous. But far more marvellous, according to the Buddha, is this mind. The reason given is that even such a picture is something thought out by the mind.
Then, by way of an advice to the monks, says the Buddha: 'Therefore, monks, you should reflect on your mind moment to moment with the thought: For a long time this mind has been defiled by lust, hate, and delusion.' The moral drawn is that beings are defiled by the defilement of their minds and that they are purified by the purification of their minds. This is the illustration by the simile of the picture.
And then the Buddha goes on to make another significant declaration: 'Monks, I do not see any other class of beings as picturesque as beings in the animal realm.' But since those beings also are thought out by the mind, he declares that the mind is far more picturesque than them. Based on this conclusion, he repeats the same advice as before.
At first sight the sutta, when it refers to a picture, seems to be speaking about the man who drew it. But there is something deeper than that. When the Buddha says that the picture called caraṇa is also something thought out by the mind, he is not simply stating the fact that the artist drew it after thinking it out with his mind. The reference is rather to the mind of the one who sees it. He, who sees it, regards it as something marvellous. He creates a picture out of it. He imagines something picturesque in it.
In fact, the allusion is not to the artist's mind, but to the spectator's mind. It is on account of the three defilements lust, hate, and delusion, nurtured in his mind for a long time, that he is able to appreciate and enjoy that picture. Such is the nature of those influxes.
That is why the Buddha declared that this mind is far more picturesque than the picture in question. So if one turns back to look at one's own mind, in accordance with the Buddha's advice, it will be a wonderful experience, like watching a movie. Why? Because reflection reveals the most marvellous sight in the world.
But usually one does not like to reflect, because one has to turn back to do so. One is generally inclined to look at the thing in front. However, the Buddha advises us to turn back and look at one's own mind every moment. Why? Because the mind is more marvellous than that picture called caraṇa, or movie.
It is the same declaration that he makes with reference to the beings in the animal realm. When one comes to think about it, there is even less room for doubt here, than in the case of the picture. First of all, the Buddha declares that there is no class of beings more picturesque than those in the animal realm. But he follows it up with the statement that even those beings are thought out by the mind, to draw the conclusion that as such the mind is more picturesque than those beings of the animal realm.
Let us try to sort out the point of this declaration. Generally, we may agree that beings in the animal realm are the most picturesque. We sometimes say that the butterfly is beautiful. But we might hesitate to call a blue fly beautiful. The tiger is fierce, but the cat is not. Here one's personal attitude accounts much for the concepts of beauty, ugliness, fierceness, and innocence of animals. It is because of the defiling influence of influxes, such as ignorance, that the world around us appears so picturesque.
Based on this particular sutta, with its reference to the caraṇa picture as a prototype, we may take a peep at the modern day's movie film, by way of an analogy. It might facilitate the understanding of the teachings on paṭicca samuppāda and Nibbāna in a way that is closer to our everyday life. The principles governing the film and the drama are part and parcel of the life outside cinema and the theatre. But since it is generally difficult to grasp them in the context of the life outside, we shall now try to elucidate them with reference to the cinema and the theatre.
Usually a film or a drama is shown at night. The reason for it is the presence of darkness. This darkness helps to bring out the darkness of ignorance that dwells in the minds of beings. So the film as well as the drama is presented to the public within a framework of darkness. If a film is shown at day time, as a matinee show, it necessitates closed windows and dark curtains. In this way, films and dramas are shown within a curtained enclosure.
There is another strange thing about these films and dramas. One goes to the cinema or the theatre saying: "I am going to see a film show, I am going to see a drama". And one returns saying: "I have seen a film show, I have seen a drama". But while the film show or the drama is going on, one forgets that one is seeing a show or a drama.
Such a strange spell of delusion takes over. This is due to the intoxicating influence of influxes. If one wishes to enjoy a film show or a drama, one should be prepared to get intoxicated by it. Otherwise it will cease to be a film show or a drama for him.
What do the film producers and dramatists do? They prepare the background for eliciting the influxes of ignorance, latent in the minds of the audience. That is why such shows and performances are held at night, or else dark curtains are employed. They have an intricate job to do. Within the framework of darkness, they have to create a delusion in the minds of their audience, so as to enact some story in a realistic manner.
To be successful, a film or a drama has to be given a touch of realism. Though fictitious, it should be apparently real for the audience. There is an element of deception involved, a hoodwink. For this touch of realism, quite a lot of make-up on the part of actors and actresses is necessary. As a matter of fact, in the ancient Indian society, one of the primary senses of the word saṅkhāra was the make-up done by actors and actresses.
Now in the present context, saṅkhāra can include not only this make-up in personal appearance, but also the acting itself, the delineation of character, stage-craft etc.. In this way, the film producers and dramatists create a suitable environment, making use of the darkness and the make-up contrivances. These are the saṅkhāras, or the 'preparations'.
However, to be more precise, it is the audience that make preparations, in the last analysis. Here too, as before, we are compelled to make a statement that might appear strange: So far not a single cinema has held a film show and not a single theatre has staged a drama.
And yet, those who had gone to the cinema and the theatre had seen film shows and dramas. Now, how can that be? Usually, we think that it is the film producer who produced the film and that it is the dramatist who made the drama.
But if we are to understand the deeper implications of what the Buddha declared, with reference to the picture caraṇa, a film show or drama is produced, in the last analysis, by the spectator himself. When he goes to the cinema and the theatre, he takes with him the spices needed to concoct a film or a drama, and that is: the influxes, or āsavas. Whatever technical defects and shortcomings there are in them, he makes good with his influxes.
As we know, in a drama there is a certain interval between two scenes. But the average audience is able to appreciate even such a drama, because they are influenced by the influxes of sense desire, existence, and ignorance.
With the progress in science and technology, scenes are made to fall on the screen with extreme rapidity. All the same, the element of delusion is still there. The purpose is to create the necessary environment for arousing delusion in the minds of the audience. Whatever preparations others may make, if the audience does not respond with their own preparations along the same lines, the drama will not be a success. But in general, the worldlings have a tendency to prepare and concoct, so they would make up for any short comings in the film or the drama with their own preparations and enjoy them.
Now, for instance, let us think of an occasion when a film show is going on within the framework of darkness. In the case of a matinee show, doors and windows will have to be closed. Supposing the doors are suddenly flung open, while a vivid technicolour scene is flashing on the screen, what happens then? The spectators will find themselves suddenly thrown out of the cinema world they had created for themselves. Why? Because the scene in technicolour has now lost its colour. It has faded away. The result is dejection, disenchantment. The film show loses its significance.
That film show owed its existence to the dark framework of ignorance and the force of preparations. But now that the framework has broken down, such a vast change has come over, resulting in a disenchantment. Now the word rāga has a nuance suggestive of colour, so virāga, dispassion, can also literally mean a fading away or a decolouration. Here we have a possible instance of nibbidā virāga, disenchantment, dispassion, at least in a limited sense.
A door suddenly flung open can push aside the delusion, at least temporarily. Let us consider the implications of this little event. The film show, in this case, ceases to be a film show because of a flash of light coming from outside. Now, what would have happened if this flash of light had come from within - from within one's mind? Then also something similar would have happened. If the light of wisdom dawns on one's mind while watching a film show or a drama, one would even wonder whether it is actually a film or a drama, while others are enjoying it.
Speaking about the film show, we mentioned above that the spectator has entered into a world of his own creation. If we are to analyse this situation according to the law of dependent origination, we may add that in fact he has a consciousness and a name-and-form in line with the events of the story, based on the preparations in the midst of the darkness of ignorance. With all his experiences in seeing the film show, he is building up his five aggregates.
Therefore, when the light of wisdom comes and dispels the darkness of ignorance, a similar event can occur. One will come out of that plane of existence. One will step out of the world of sense desires, at least temporarily.
Now, with regard to the arahants, too, the same trend of events holds good. When their ignorance ceases, leaving no residue, avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā, exhausting the influxes as well, preparations also cease. Why? Because the preparations owe their existence to ignorance. They have the ability to prepare so long as there is ignorance.
Saṅkhāra generally means preparations. It is the make-up and the make-believe which accounted for the delusion. The darkness of ignorance provided the setting for it. If somehow or other, the light of wisdom enters the scene, those preparations, saṅkhāra, became no-preparations, visaṅkhāra, and the prepared, saṅkhata, becomes a non-prepared, asaṅkhata.
So what was true with regard to the film show, is also true, in a deeper sense, with regard to the events leading up to the attainment of arahant-hood. With the dawn of that light of wisdom, the preparations, or saṅkhāra, lose their significance and become visaṅkhāra.
Though for the world outside they appear as preparations, for the arahant they are not preparations, because they do not prepare a bhava, or existence, for him. They are made ineffective. Similarly, the prepared or the made-up, when it is understood as something prepared or made-up, becomes an un-prepared or an un-made. There is a subtle principle of un-doing involved in this.
Sometimes, this might be regarded as a modernistic interpretation. But there is Canonical evidence in support of such an interpretation. For instance, in the Dvayatānupassanāsutta of the Sutta Nipāta, we come across the following verse:
Nivutānaṃ tamo hoti,
sata˝ca vivaṭaṃ hoti,
santike na vijānanti,
magā dhammassa akovidā.
"Murk it is to those enveloped,
As darkness unto the undiscerning,
But to the good wide ope' it is,
As light is unto those discerning,
So near, and yet they know not,
Fools, unskilled in the Norm."
It is all murky to those enveloped by the hindrance of ignorance, like the darkness for those who are unable to see. But for the noble ones, it is visible like an open space, even as the light to those with vision. Though it is near at hand, fools, inexpert in the Dhamma, do not understand. This same impression of the Buddha comes up again in the following verse in the Udāna:
bhabbarūpo va dissati,
passato n'atthi ki˝canaṃ.
"The world, enfettered to delusion,
Feigns a promising mien,
The fool, to his assets bound,
Sees only darkness around,
It looks as though it would last,
But to him who sees there is naught."
The world appears as real to one who is fettered to delusion. He imagines it to be reliable. And so the fool, relying on his assets, is encompassed by the darkness. To him the world appears as eternal. But the one who has the right vision, knows that in reality there is nothing.
All this goes to show that the life outside is not much different from what goes on within the four walls of the cinema and the theatre. Just as, in the latter case, an enjoyable story is created out of a multitude of scenes, relayed at varying degrees of rapidity, backed by the delusive make-up of actors and actresses, so that one may lose oneself in a world of fantasy, even so, according to the point of view of Dhamma, the lifestyle outside is something made up and concocted.
However, the darkness within is much thicker than the darkness outside. The darkness outside may be dispelled even by a door flung open, as we saw above. But not so easily the darkness within. That is why, in the psalms of the Theras and Therīs, it is said that they split or burst asunder the mass of delusion, tamokkhandhaṃ padāliya, tamokkhandhaṃ padālayiṃ. The pitchy black darkness of ignorance in the world is one that is thick enough to be split up and burst asunder. So it seems, the darkness within is almost tangibly thick. But the first incision on this thick curtain of darkness is made by the path knowledge of the Stream-winner.
As a side-light, we may cite an episode from the lives of the Venerables Sāriputta and Mahā Moggalāna, the two chief disciples of the Buddha. Formerly, as brahmin youths, they were known as Upatissa and Kolita. These two young men once went to see a hill-top festival, called giraggasamajja. Since by then, their discerning wisdom was already matured, they suddenly developed a dejection about the entertainment going on. The hill-top festival, as it were, lost its festivity for them. They understood the vanity of it and could no longer enjoy it as before.
They may have already had a distant glimpse of the similarity between the two levels of experience, mentioned above. But they on their own could not get at the principles underlying the delusion involved.
Much later, as a wandering ascetic, when Upatissa met the Venerable Assaji Thera on his alms-round, he begged the latter to preach the Dhamma to him. Venerable Assaji said: "I know only a little". Upatissa also assured him: "I need only a little". Venerable Assaji preached 'a little' and Upatissa, too, heard 'a little', but since there was much in it, the latter attained the Fruit of Stream-winning even on hearing the first two lines of the following verse:
Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā,
tesam hetuṃ Tathāgato āha,
tesa˝ca yo nirodho,
evaṃ vādi mahāsamaṇo.
"Of things that proceed from a cause,
Their cause the Tathāgata has told,
And also their cessation,
Thus teaches the great ascetic."
The verse gives in a nutshell the law of dependent arising. From it, Upatissa got the clue to his riddle of life.
Some interpret the word hetu, cause, in this verse, as avijjā, or ignorance, the first link. But that is not the case. It refers to the basic principle known as idappaccayatā, the relatedness of this to that. Hetuppabhavā dhammā is a reference to things dependently arisen. In point of fact, it is said about a Stream-winner that he has seen well the cause as well as the things arisen from a cause: Hetu ca sudiṭṭho, hetusamuppanā ca dhammā. That means that he has seen the law of dependent arising as also the dependently arisen phenomena.
We have already discussed the significance of these two terms. What is called paṭicca samuppāda is the basic principle itself. It is said that the wandering ascetic Upatissa was able to arouse the path of Stream-winning on hearing just the first two lines, and these state the basic principle as such.
The word tesaṃ, plural, clearly implies that the reference is to all the twelve factors, inclusive of ignorance. The cessation, also, is of those twelve, as for instance it is said in the Udāna: Khayaṃ paccayānaṃ avedi, "understood the cessation of conditions", since all the twelve are conditions.
To sum up: Whatever phenomena that arise from a cause, their cause is idappaccayatā, or the law of relatedness of this to that.
This being, this exists,
With the arising of this, this arises.
This not being, this does not exist,
With the cessation of this, this ceases.
And then the cessation of things arisen from a cause is ultimately Nibbāna itself. That is the implication of the oft recurrent phrase avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā, "with the complete fading away and cessation of that very ignorance".
So then, from this discussion it should be clear that our illustration with the help of the simile of the cinema and the theatre is of much relevance to an understanding of the law of dependent arising. With this much, we shall wind up today.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
In our last sermon, we happened to discuss how the concept of existence built up with the help of ignorance and influxes, comes to cease with the cessation of ignorance and influxes. We explained it by means of similes and illustrations, based on the film show and the drama. As the starting point, we took up the simile of the picture called caraṇa, which the Buddha had made use of in the Gaddulasutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. With reference to a picture called caraṇa, popular in contemporary India, the Buddha has declared that the mind is more picturesque than that caraṇa picture. As an adaptation of that caraṇa picture for the modern day, we referred to the movie film and the drama in connection with our discussion of saṅkhāras in particular and paṭicca samuppāda in general. Today, let us try to move a little forward in the same direction.
In the latter part of the same Second Gaddulasutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya, Khandhasaṃyutta, the Buddha gives a simile of a painter. Translated it would read as follows: "Just as a dyer or a painter would fashion the likeness of a woman or of a man, complete in all its major and minor parts, on a well planed board, or a wall, or on a strip of cloth, with dye or lac or turmeric or indigo or madder, even so the untaught worldling creates, as it were, his own form, feelings, perceptions, preparations, and consciousness."
What the Buddha wants to convey to us by this comparison of the five grasping groups to an artefact done by a painter, is the insubstantiality and the vanity of those five groups. It brings out their compound and made-up nature. This essencelessness and emptiness is more clearly expressed in the Pheṇapiṇḍūpamasutta of the Khandhasaṃyutta. The summary verse at the end of that discourse would suffice for the present:
It says that the Buddha, the kinsman of the sun, has compared form to a mass of foam, feeling to a water bubble, perception to a mirage, preparations to a banana trunk, and consciousness to a magic show. These five similes bring out the insubstantiality of the five grasping groups. Their simulating and deceptive nature is indicated by the similes. Not only the magic show, but even the other similes, like the mass of foam, are suggestive of simulation, in giving a false notion of compactness. They all convey the idea of insubstantiality and deceptiveness. Consciousness in particular, is described in that context as a conjurer's trick.
In the course of our discussion we happened to touch upon the significance of saṅkhāras, or preparations. As far as their relevance to films and dramas is concerned, they impart an appearance of reality to 'parts' and 'acts' which make up a film or a drama. Realism, in the context of art and drama, amounts to an apparent reality. It connotes the skill in deceiving the audience. It is, in fact, only a show of reality. The successful drama is one that effectively hoodwinks an audience. So realism, in that context, means appearing as real. It therefore has a nuance of deception.
Now what supports this deceptive and delusive quality of preparations is ignorance. All this 'acting' that is going on in the world is kept up by ignorance, which provides the background for it. Just as, in a drama, such preparations as change of dress, make-up contrivances, character portrayal, and stage-craft, create an atmosphere of delusion, so also are the saṅkhāras, or preparations, instrumental in building up these five grasping groups. So all this goes to show that the term saṇkhāra has the sense of preparing or producing. The realistic appearance of a film or a drama is capable of creating a delusion in an audience. Similarly, the apparent reality of the animate and inanimate objects in the world, creates delusion in the worldlings.
Now to hark back to two lines of a verse we had quoted earlier, mohasambandhano loko, bhabbarūpo va dissati, "the world appears as real to one who is fettered to delusion". This means that the world has an apparent reality, that it merely gives the impression of something real to one who is deluded. It is clear, therefore, that saṅkhāras are responsible for some sort of preparation or concoction. What serves as the background for it, is the darkness of ignorance. This preparation, this concoction goes on, behind the veil of ignorance.
We come across a discourse in the Saṃyutta Nikāya, in which this primary sense of preparation in the word saṅkhāra is explicitly stated, namely the Khajjanīyasutta. In that discourse, each of the five grasping groups is defined, and the term saṅkhāra is defined as follows:
Ki˝ca, bhikkhave, saṅkhāre vadetha? Saṅkhatam abhisaṅkharontī'ti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā 'saṅkhārā'ti vuccanti. Ki˝ca saṅkhatam abhisaṅkharonti? Rūpaṃ rūpattāya saṅkhatam abhisaṅkharonti, vedanaṃ vedanattāya saṅkhatam abhisaṅkharonti, sa˝˝aṃ sa˝˝attāya saṅkhatam abhisaṅkharonti, saṅkhāre saṅkhārattāya saṅkhatam abhisaṅkharonti, vi˝˝āṇaṃ vi˝˝āṇattāya saṅkhatam abhisaṅkharonti. Saṅkhatam abhisaṅkharontī'ti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā 'saṅkhārā'ti vuccanti.
"And what, monks, would you say are 'preparations'? They prepare the prepared - that, monks, is why they are called preparations. And what is the prepared that they prepare? They prepare, as a prepared, form into the state of form, they prepare, as a prepared, feeling into the state of feeling, they prepare, as a prepared, perception into the state of perception, they prepare, as a prepared, preparations into the state of preparations, they prepare, as a prepared, consciousness into the state of consciousness. They prepare the prepared, so, that is why, monks, they are called preparations."
This explains why saṅkhāras are so called. That is to say, the sense in which they are called saṅkhāras. They prepare the prepared, saṅkhata, into that state. And the prepared is form, feeling, percep-
tion, preparations, and consciousness. Saṅkhāras are therefore instrumental in building up each of these grasping groups. The most intriguing statement is that even the saṅkhāras are built up by saṅkhāras. They play the part of preparing a sort of make-believe activity. In this sense it is associated with the idea of intention, as being produced by intention.
The two terms abhisaṅkhataṃ abhisa˝cetayitaṃ are often found in juxtaposition, as if they are synonymous. Abhisaṅkhata means 'specially prepared', and abhisa˝cetayitaṃ means 'thought out' or 'intended'. Here we see the relationship of saṅkhāras to intention. The preparation is done by means of intentions. The two words ceteti pakappeti are also found used together. Intention and imagination play their part in this matter of preparation. So in the last analysis, it is something constructed by imagination. All of these five groups are thought-constructs. As suggested by the similes of the picture and the painter, these five groups, in the final reckoning, turn out to be the products of imagination.
As far as the nature of these preparations is concerned, there are these three kinds of preparations mentioned in the Dhamma, namely kāyasaṅkhāra, vacīsaṅkhāra, and manosaṅkhāra, bodily preparations, verbal preparations, and mental preparations. These terms have to do with merit and demerit. They are cited in connection with kamma, implying that beings accumulate kamma by means of body, word and mind.
What supports this heaping up of preparations is ignorance. Ignorance provides the background, as in the case of the drama and the movie. This relationship between ignorance and preparations is clearly brought out in the Cetanāsutta of the Sa˝cetaniyavagga of the Aṅguttara Nikāya. According to that sutta, the world attributes an activity to something by regarding it as a unit - by perceiving it as a compact unit. In other words, it is the way of the world to superimpose the concept of a unit or self-agency to wherever there appears to be some sort of activity. As we mentioned in connection with the simile of the whirlpool, viewed from a distance, the whirlpool appears as a centre or a base. In the same way, wherever there appears to be some form of activity, we tend to bring in the concept of a unit.
Now it is this very ignorance, this 'ignoring', that becomes the seed-bed for preparations. The basic presumption of this ignorance is that preparations must originate from a unitary centre. And the Buddha also points out, in the Cetanāsutta of the Sa˝cetaniyavagga, that the root cause of bodily, verbal, and mental preparations, is ignorance. Since the discourse is rather lengthy, we propose to analyse it in three sections, for facility of understanding.
Kāye vā, bhikkhave, sati kāyasa˝cetanāhetu uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. Vācāya vā, bhikkhave, sati vācīsa˝cetanāhetu uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. Mane vā, bhikkhave, sati manosa˝cetanāhetu uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ avijjāpaccayā va.
"Monks, when the body is there, due to bodily intention, there arises inward pleasure and pain. Monks, when speech is there, due to verbal intention, there arises inward pleasure and pain. Monks, when mind is there, due to mental intention, there arises inward pleasure and pain, all conditioned by ignorance."
Now let us take this as the first section and try to get at its meaning. Given the concept of a body, due to intentions based on that concept of a body, there arises inwardly pleasure and pain. That is, when one imagines that there is a body, due to thoughts which take body as their object, one experiences pleasure and pain. What is called 'the body', is a huge mass of activity, something like a big workshop or a factory. But because of ignorance, if one takes it as one thing, that is as a unit, then there is room for bodily intention to come in. One can objectify the body and arouse thoughts of the body. Thereby one experiences pleasure and pain. This is the implication of the above statement.
Similarly, in the case of speech, it may be said that language is a conglomeration of letters and words. But when speech is taken as a real unit, one can form intentions about speech and inwardly experience pleasure and pain. So also in the case of the mind. It is not an entity by itself, like a soul, as postulated by other religions. It is again only a heap of thoughts. But if one grants that there is a mind, due to that very presumption, one experiences inwardly pleasure and pain with mind as its object. The concluding phrase of that paragraph is particularly significant. It says that all this is conditioned by ignorance.
Let us now take up the second part:
Sāmaṃ vā taṃ, bhikkhave, kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. Pare vāssa taṃ, bhikkhave, kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharonti, yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. Sampajāno vā taṃ, bhikkhave, kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. Asampajāno vā taṃ, bhikkhave, kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ.
"Either he himself prepares that bodily preparation, owing to which there would be that inward pleasure and pain. Or else others prepare for him that bodily preparation, owing to which there would be for him inward pleasure and pain. Either he, being fully aware, prepares that bodily preparation, owing to which there would be for him inward pleasure and pain. Or else he, being fully unaware, prepares that bodily preparation, owing to which there would be for him that inward pleasure and pain."
The substance of this paragraph seems to be that one by oneself prepares the bodily preparation that brings one pleasure or pain inwardly and that others also prepare for him such a bodily preparation. It is also said that the bodily preparation can occur either with or without awareness. About the verbal and mental preparations too, a similar specification is made. This is the summary of the second section.
The third and final section is the most significant:
Imesu, bhikkhave, dhammesu avijjā anupatitā. Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā so kāyo na hoti yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ, sā vācā na hoti yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ, so mano na hoti yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ, khettaṃ taṃ na hoti, vatthum taṃ na hoti, āyatanaṃ taṃ na hoti, adhikaraṇaṃ taṃ na hoti, yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ.
"Monks, in all these cases, ignorance hangs on. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance, that body is not there, owing to which there can arise for him inward pleasure or pain, that speech is not there, owing to which there can arise for him inward pleasure and pain, that mind is not there, owing to which there can arise for him inward pleasure and pain. That field is not there, that site is not there, that base is not there, that reason is not there, owing to which there can arise for him inward pleasure or pain."
Since all the instances mentioned earlier are accompanied by ignorance, the utter fading away and cessation of that very ignorance prevents, as it were, the crystallization of that body, speech, and mind, due to which inward pleasure and pain can arise. In other words, it removes the field, the ground, the base and the provenance for the arising of inward pleasure and pain.
This shows that, once the existence of a body is granted, with that concept of a body as its object, bodily preparations come to be built up. Or, in other words, given the concept of a body, and due to bodily intention, that is by treating it as a real unit, one experiences inwardly pleasure and pain because of thoughts concerning the body.
So also in regard to speech and mind. It is emphatically stated that all this occurs because of ignorance. What confers on them all the status of a unit, through the perception of the compact, is this very ignorance. As for the second paragraph, what it says is simply that those bodily preparations and the like can be made by oneself as well as by others, and that too either being aware or unaware.
Now all these are related to ignorance. Therefore, at whatever point of time this ignorance ceases completely in someone, then for him there is no consciousness of a body, though from an outside point of view he appears to have a body. He may use words, he may speak, but for him there is nothing substantial in linguistic usage. He seems to be making use of a mind, mind-objects also come up, but he does not regard it as a unit. Therefore, inwardly, no pleasures and pains come up.
With the cessation of ignorance comes the cessation of preparations. Thereby all pleasures and pains cease. This, in other words, is the state of Nibbāna. It appears, then, that this discourse gives us a clue to the state of Nibbāna. It says something about bodily, verbal, and mental preparations.
If we try to understand its message in relation to the analogy of the film show and the drama, mentioned earlier, we may offer the following explanation: Now in the case of a film show or a drama, the preparations remain as preparations so long as there is that darkness of ignorance. The realism or the realistic appearance of the acting of actors and actresses, or the roles and guises they assume in dress and speech, depends on the veil of ignorance that conceals their true nature.
Similarly, here too, the implication is that it is ignorance which invests these preparations with the realistic appearance. If at any point of time that ignorance happens to cease, then there will be no pleasure or displeasure for the audience, however much make-up and pretension there is.
It is such a situation of non-enjoyment that we happened to mention in the previous sermon with reference to the witnessing of a hill-top festival by Upatissa and Kolita. They had a flash of insight due to the light of wisdom that came from within, not due to any illumination from outside. Because of it, those preparations ceased to be preparations. From this we can understand that the term saṅkhāra becomes meaningful only against the background of ignorance.
To move a step further, it is against the background of both ignorance and preparations that all the subsequent links in the formula become meaningful. As far as the interrelation between consciousness and name-and-form is concerned, all what we have said above regarding the reflection of name-and-form on consciousness, becomes meaningful only so long as the reality of preparations is granted, that is, only so far as their deceptive nature is maintained. But that deceptive nature owes its existence to ignorance. This way we can unravel one aspect of the essential significance of the term saṅkhāra.
Then there is another point worth considering in this respect. Saṅkhāra as the second link in the paṭicca samuppāda formula is defined by the Buddha in the Vibhaṅgasutta in the Nidānasaṃyutta not in terms of kāyasaṅkhāra, vacīsaṅkhāra, and manosaṅkhāra, but as kāyasaṅkhāro, vacīsaṅkhāro, and cittasaṅkhāro. This might seem rather intriguing. Katame ca, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā? Tayome, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā - kāyasaṅkhāro, vacīsaṅkhāro, cittasaṅkhāro. "What, monks, are preparations? Monks, there are these three preparations - body-preparation, speech-preparation, and mind-preparation."
Also, it is noteworthy that here the term is given in the singular. In the majority of instances it is found in the plural number, but here in the definition of the term the singular is used as kāyasaṅkhāro, vacīsaṅkhāro, and cittasaṅkhāro. The significance of this usage is explained for us by the Cūḷavedallasutta, in the Dhamma discussion between the arahant nun Dhammadinnā and the lay disciple Visākha. There the venerable Therī, in answer to a question raised by the lay disciple, comes out with a definition of these three terms:
Assāsapassāsā kho, āvuso Visākha, kāyikā, ete dhammā kāyappaṭibaddhā, tasmā assāsapassāsā kāyasaṅkhāro. "Friend Visākha, in-breaths and out-breaths are bodily, these things are bound up with the body, that is why in-breaths and out-breaths are a body-preparation." According to this interpretation, in-breathing and out-breathing are a body-preparation in the sense that their activity is connected with the body. There is no explicit mention of karma here.
Then the definition of vacīsaṅkhāro is as follows: Pubbe kho, āvuso Visākha, vitakketvā vicāretvā pacchā vācaṃ bhindati, tasmā vitakkavicārā vacīsaṅkhāro. "Friend Visākha, first having thought and pondered one breaks into speech, that is why thinking and pondering are a speech-preparation." Here vacīsaṅkhāra is defined as thinking and pondering, not in terms of karma such as abusive speech and the like.
Then, as the third, cittasaṅkhāro is given the following definition: Sa˝˝ā ca vedanā ca cetasikā ete dhammā cittappaṭibaddhā, tasmā sa˝˝ā ca vedanā ca cittasaṅkhāro. "Perception and feeling are mental, they are bound up with the mind, that is why perception and feeling are a mind-preparation." Perception and feeling are called a mind-preparation because they are mental and have to do with the mind.
According to this definition it appears, then, that what the Buddha had indicated as the second link of the formula of dependent arising, is in-breathing and out-breathing, thinking and pondering, and perception and feeling. The mode of interpretation, we have adopted, shows us that the word saṅkhāra, in the context of a drama, for instance, can mean preparations or some sort of preliminary arrangement or fashioning.
Now this sense of preparation is applicable to in-breaths and out-breaths too. As we know, in all our bodily activities, particularly in lifting some weight and the like, or when exerting ourselves, we sometimes take a deep breath, almost impulsively. That is to say, the most basic activity of this body is in-breathing and out-breathing.
Moreover, in the definition of vacīsaṅkhāro it is clearly stated that one speaks out having first thought out and pondered. This is a clear instance of the role of saṅkhāra as a 'preparation' or a preliminary activity. Now the word 'rehearsal' is in common use in the society. Sometimes, the day before a drama is staged for the society, a sort of trial performance is held. Similarly, before breaking out into speech, one thinks and ponders. That is why sometimes we find words issuing out before we can be aware of it. Thinking and pondering is called vacīsaṅkhāro, because they 'prepare' speech. The sense of 'preparation' is therefore quite apt.
Then there is perception and feeling, for which the term cittasaṅkhāro is used here, instead of manosaṅkhāra. The reason for it is that what we reckon as manosaṅkhāra is actually the more prominent level represented by intentions and the like. The background for those intentions, the subliminal preparatory stage, is to be found in perception and feeling. It is perception and feeling that give the impetus for the arising of the more prominent stage of intention. They provide the necessary mental condition for doing evil or good deeds. This way, we can get at the subtle nuances of the term saṅkhāra. Just as in the case of an iceberg floating in the ocean, the greater part is submerged and only a fraction of it shows above the surface, so also the deeper nuances of this term are rather imperceptible.
Beneath our heap of body actions, verbal actions, and mental acts of willing or intentions lies a huge mountain of activities. Breathing in and breathing out is the most basic activity in one's life. It is, in fact, the criterion for judging whether one is alive or dead. For instance, when someone falls in a swoon, we examine him to see whether he is still breathing, whether this basic activity is still there in him. Also, in such a case, we try to see whether he can speak and feel, whether perception and feeling are still there in him. So in this
way we can understand how these basic forms of activity decide the criterion for judging whether life is present or extinct in a person.
That activity is something internal. But even at that level, defilements lie dormant, because ignorance is hiding there too. In fact, that is precisely why they are reckoned as saṅkhāra. Usually, one thinks in terms of 'I' and 'mine', as: "I breathe", "I speak", "I see", and "I feel". So, like the submerged portion of an iceberg, these subtler layers of preparations also have ignorance hidden within them. That is why the attempt of pre-Buddhistic ascetics to solve this saṃsāric riddle by tranquillity alone met with failure.
Pre-Buddhistic ascetics, and even Ālāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta, thought that they can get out of this saṃsāra by tranquillizing the bodily activities, the verbal activities, and the mental activities. But they did not understand that all these are saṅkhāras, or preparations, therefore they were confronted with a certain dilemma. They went on calming down the bodily activities to subtler and subtler levels. They calmed down the in-breaths and out-breaths, they managed to suppress thinking and pondering by concentration exercises, but without proper understanding. It was only a temporary calming down.
However, once they reached the level of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, they had to face a certain problem. In fact, the very designation of that level of attainment betrays the dilemma they were in. It means that one is at a loss to say definitely whether there is some perception or not. The Pa˝cattayasutta clearly reveals this fact. It gives expression to the problem facing those ascetics in the following significant statement:
Sa˝˝ā rogo sa˝˝ā gaṇḍo sa˝˝ā sallaṃ, asa˝˝ā sammoho, etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ yadidaṃ nevasa˝˝ānāsa˝˝aṃ. "Perception is a disease, perception is a boil, perception is a dart, but not to have perception is to be deluded, this is peaceful, this is excellent, that is, neither-perception-nor-non-perception."
They understood to some extent that this perception is a disease, a trouble, a tumour, or a wound, or else a thorn, they wanted to be free from perception. But then, on the other hand, they feared that to be totally free from perception is to be in a deluded state. Therefore they concluded: 'This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is neither-perception-nor-non-perception', and came to a halt there. That is why the Buddha rejected even Ālāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta and went in search of the stilling of all preparations.
So the kind of tranquillity meditation followed by the pre-Buddhistic ascetics, through various higher knowledges and meditative attainments, could never bring about a stilling of all preparations. Why? Because the ignorance underlying those preparations were not discernible to their level of wisdom. In the least, they could not even recognize their saṅkhāra nature. They thought that these are only states of a soul. Therefore, like the present day Hindu Yogins following the philosophy of the Upaniśads, they thought that breathing is just one layer of the self, it is one of the outer rinds of the soul.
In fact, the 'kernel' of self was supposed to have around it the four rinds, annamaya, prāṇamaya, saṃj˝amaya, and vij˝āṇamaya. That is to say, made out of food, breath, perception, and consciousness, respectively. Apart from treating them as states of a self, they were not able to understand that all these activities are saṅkhāras and that ignorance is the spring-board for them.
In view of the fact that Nibbāna is called the stilling of all preparations, sabbasaṅkhārasamatha, one might sometimes conclude that the attainment of the cessation of perceptions and feeling, sa˝˝āvedayitanirodha, is in itself Nibbāna. But it is on rising from that attainment, which is like a deep freeze, that one makes contact with the three deliverances, the signless, animitta, the desireless, appaṇihita, and the void, su˝˝ata.
According to the Buddhist outlook, it is wisdom that decides the issue, and not tranquillity. Therefore, in the last analysis, preparations cease to be preparations when the tendency to grasp the sign in the preparations is got rid of and signlessness is experienced. The 'sign' stands for the notion of permanence and it accounts for the deceptive nature of preparations, as in the case of an actor's make-up and stage-craft. It is the sign of permanence that leads to a desire for something, to expectations and aspirations.
So that sign has to leave together with the desire, for the Desireless Deliverance to come about. Then one has to see all this as essenceless and void. It is just because of desire that we regard something as 'essence-tial'. We ask for the purpose of something, when we have desire. Now it is through this unique vision of the Signless, the Desireless, and the Void, that the Buddha arrived at the state of stilling of all preparations.
We resort to the simile of the film show and the drama not out of disregard for the precept concerning abstention from such diversions, but because the Buddha has called dancing a form of mad behaviour. Ummattakam idaṃ, bhikkhave, ariyassa vinaye yadidaṃ naccaṃ. "This, monks, is a form of madness according to the noble one's discipline, namely dancing." Now what is the nature of a madman? He is jumpy. From the standpoint of Dhamma, dancing is a form of jumpiness. In fact, all preparations are that. It shows a nervous stress as well as a nervous release. It is an endless series of winding and unwinding.
What makes this problem of saṃsāra such a knotty one to solve? We go on heaping up karmic actions, but when the time comes to experience their consequences, we do not regard them as mere results of karma, but superimpose an 'I' on that experience. So we act with the notion of an 'I' and react to the consequences again with the notion of an 'I'. Because of that egoistic reaction, we heap up fresh karma. So here is a case of stress and release, of winding and rewinding.
This is like a tangled skein. Sometimes, when an unskilled person tries to disentangle a tangled skein while disentangling one end, the other end gets entangled. So it is, in the case of this saṃsāric ball of thread. While doing a karma, one is conscious of it as "I am doing it". And when it is the turn to suffer for it, one does not think it as a result of that karma. Consequently one accumulates fresh karma through various attachments and conflicts arising out of it. Here too we see some sort of a drama.
Now if one can get the opportunity to see either a rehearsal or the back-stage preparations for a drama, which however is not usually accessible to the public, one would be able to see through the drama. If one can steal a peep into the back-stage make-up contrivances of actors and actresses, one would see how ugly persons can become comely and the wretched can appear regal. One would then see what a 'poor show' it is.
In the same way there is something dramatic in these basic preparations, namely - in-breathing and out-breathing, thinking and pondering, perception and feeling. If one sees these back-stage preparations with wisdom, one would be disenchanted. What tranquillity meditation does, is to temporarily calm them down and derive some sort of happiness. That too is necessary from the point of view of concentration, to do away with restlessness and the like, but it does not dispel ignorance. That is why, in insight meditation, one tries to understand preparations for what they are by dispelling ignorance.
The more one sees preparations as preparations, ignorance is dispelled, and the more one dispels ignorance, the preparations lose their significance as preparations. Then one sees the nature of preparations with wisdom as signless, desireless, and void. So much so that, in effect, preparations cease to be preparations.
This is something of a marvel. If we now hark back to the two words 'winding' and 'rewinding', the entire world, or saṃsāric existence in its entirety, is a process of winding and rewinding. Where the winding ends and the rewinding begins is a matter beyond our comprehension. But one thing is clear - all these comes to cease when craving and grasping are abandoned. It is towards such an objective that our minds turn by recognizing preparations for what they are, as a result of a deeper analysis of their nature.
The relation of saṅkhāras to ignorance is somewhat similar to the relation a drama has to its back-stage preparations. It seems, then, that from the standpoint of Dhamma the entire saṃsāra is a product of specifically prepared intentions, even like the drama with its back-stage preparations.
Let us return to the simile of the cinema again. The average man, when he says that he has seen a film show, what he has actually seen is just one scene flashing on the screen at a time. As we happened to mention in an earlier sermon, people go to the cinema and to the theatre saying: "We are going to see a film show, we are going to see a drama". And they return saying: "We have seen a film show, we have seen a drama". But actually, they have neither seen a film nor a drama completely.
What really has happened? How did they see a film show? Just as much as one creates a name-and-form on one's screen of consciousness with the help of preparations, the film-goer has created a story by putting together the series of scenes falling on the screen.
What we mean to say is this: Now supposing the series of consecutive frames, which make up a motion picture, is made to appear on the scene when there is no spectator in the cinema hall - will there be a film at all? While such an experiment is going on, if a film-goer steps in late, half way through, he would not be able to gather that portion of the film already gone. It is gone, gone , gone forever. Those preparations are irrevocably past.
A film show actually becomes a film show thanks to that glue used by the audience - the glue of craving. The Buddha has preached that this craving has three characteristics, namely: ponobhavika, nandirāgasahagata, and tatratatrābhinandi. Ponobhavika as a characteristic of craving means, in its broader sense, that it leads to re-becoming. One might think that by 're-becoming' only the connecting up of one existence in saṃsāra with another is meant. But that is not all. It is craving that connects up one moment of existence with another.
One who is seeing a film show, for instance, connects up the first scene with the second, in order to understand the latter. And that is how one 'sees' a film show and comes back and says: "I have seen a film show". All the scenes do not fall on the screen at once, but a connecting-up goes on. That is the idea behind the term ponobhavika. In this connecting up of one scene with another there is an element of re-becoming or re-generation.
Then there is the term nandirāgasahagata. This is the other additive which should be there for one to enjoy the film show. It means the nature of delighting and getting attached. Craving in particular is like a glue. In fact, a synonym for it is lepa, which means a 'glue'. Another synonym is visattika, an 'adhesive' or a 'sticky substance'. Even the word rāga, or attachment, already conveys this sense. So craving, or desire, glues the scenes together.
Then comes the term tatratatrābhinandi, the nature of delighting, in particular now here, now there. It is, in effect, the association of one scene with another in order to make up a story out of it. That is why we made the statement: 'So far not a single cinema has held a film show and not a single theatre has staged a drama'. But all the same, those who went to the cinema and the theatre witnessed a show and a drama. How? They produced them, or prepared them, with their 'sticky' defilements on their own.
Now in the same way, worldly beings create a film show of name-and-form on the screen of consciousness with the help of preparations, or saṅkhāras. Name-and-form is a product of imagination. What insight meditators often refer to as reflection on 'name-and-form preparations', amounts to this. Is there something real in name-and-form? In our very first sermon we happened to say something on this point.
In the Dvayatānupassanāsutta of the Sutta Nipāta the Buddha gives utterance to the following verse:
passa lokaṃ sadevakaṃ,
idaṃ saccan'ti ma˝˝ati.
"Just see the world, with all its gods,
Fancying a self where none exists,
Entrenched in name-and-form it holds
The conceit that this is real."
It is as if the Buddha is pinpointing the illusory and deceptive nature of name-and-form. As we mentioned before, scenes fall on the cinema screen only one at a time. Because of the rapidity of the movie film, it is difficult for one to be aware of this fact. Now, in the case of a drama, the curtain goes down between acts and the audience waits for the curtain to go up. But they wait, ready with their glue to connect the previous act with the one to come, to construct a drama. By the time a certain scene falls on the cinema screen, the previous one is gone for good. Scenes to follow have not yet come. Whatever scene falls on the screen, now, will not stay there. So what we have here, is something illusory, a deceptive phenomenon.
Let us now consider an instance like this: Sometimes we see a dog, crossing a plank over a stream, stopping half way through to gaze at the water below. It wags its tail, or growls, or keeps on looking at and away from the water, again and again. Why does it do so? Seeing its own image in the water, it imagines that to be another dog. So it either wags its tail in a friendly way, or growls angrily, or else it keeps on stealing glances out of curiosity - love, hate, and delusion.
In this case, the dogs thinks that it is looking because it sees a dog. But what is really happening? It is just because it is looking that it sees a dog. If the dog had not looked down, it would not have seen a dog looking up at it from below, that is to say - its own image. Now it is precisely this sort of illusion that is going on with regard to this name-and-form, the preparations, and sense-perception. Here lies the secret of Dependent Arising.
As a flash-back to our film show, it may be added that if a film reel is played at a time when there is no spectator, no film show will be registered anywhere, because there is no mind to put together. It merely flashed on the screen. But if someone had been there to receive it, to contact with his sense-bases, that is, to see with his eyes, hear with his ears, and make mental contact with desire, then there comes to be a film show. And so also in the case of a drama.
Film producers and dramatists think that the production of the film and the drama is solely their work. But in the last analysis, it is the audience that gives the film and the drama the finishing touch, to make them finished products. Similarly, we tend to think that every object in the world exists in its own right. But then this is what is called sakkāyadiṭṭhi, the 'personality view', which carries with it the self-bias.
It is such a view that made the dog imagine that there is another dog in the water. It imagined that the dog is there, even when it is not looking. It may have thought: "I am looking because a dog appears there". But the fact is that the dog appears there because it cares to look. Here, then, we have a case of dependent arising, or paṭicca samuppāda.
The word paṭicca has a very deep meaning. The Buddha borrowed many words from the existing philosophical tradition in India. Sometimes he infused new meanings into them and adopted them to his terminology. But the term paṭicca samuppāda is not to be found in any other philosophical system. The special significance of the term lies in the word paṭicca.
On a certain occasion, the Buddha himself gave a definition to this term paṭicca samuppāda. Now it is fairly well known that the Buddha declared that all this suffering is dependently arisen. What then is to be understood by the word dukkha, or 'suffering'? He defines it in terms of the five grasping groups, or the five aggregates of clinging, as it is said: saṅkhittena pa˝cupādānakkhandhā dukkhā, "in short, the five grasping groups are suffering". So then suffering, or the five grasping groups, is something dependently arisen.
In one discourse in the Nidānasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya we find the Buddha making the following significant statement: Paṭiccasamuppannaṃ kho, Upavāṇa, dukkhaṃ vuttaṃ mayā. Kiṃ paṭicca? Phassaṃ paṭicca. "Upavāṇa, I have declared that suffering is dependently arisen. Dependent on what? Dependent on contact." So from this statement, also, it is clear that the five groups of grasping arise because of contact, that is by contacting through the six bases.
Considered in this way, a thing is called dependently arisen because it arises on being touched by the six sense-bases. That is why it is called anicca, or impermanent. The film show, for instance, was not something already made, or 'ready made'. It arose due to contact. The phrase saṅkhataṃ paṭiccasamuppannaṃ, 'prepared and dependently arisen', suggests that the prepared nature is also due to that contact. What may be called abhisaṅkhata vi˝˝āṇa, 'specifically prepared consciousness', is that sort of consciousness which gets attached to name-and-form.
When one sees a film show, one interprets a scene appearing on the screen according to one's likes and dislikes. It becomes a thing of experience for him. Similarly, by imagining a self in name-and-form, consciousness gets attached to it. It is such a consciousness, which is established on name-and-form, that can be called abhisaṅkhata vi˝˝āṇa.
Then could there be also a consciousness which does not reflect a name-and-form? Yes, there could be. That is what is known as anidassana vi˝˝āṇa, or 'non-manifestative consciousness'. This brings us to an extremely abstruse topic in this Dhamma.
There is a very deep verse occurring at the end of the Kevaḍḍhasutta of the Dīgha Nikāya which has been variously interpreted by scholars both eastern and western. It runs:
anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ,
ettha āpo ca paṭhavī,
tejo vāyo na gādhati,
ettha dīgha˝ca rassa˝ca,
aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ,
ettha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca,
The commentary advances several interpretations to this verse. Being unable to give one definite meaning, it suggests several. However, since we have developed a certain mode of interpretation so far, we propose to give preference to it before getting down to the commentarial interpretation. Now let us see whether our mode of interpretation can make this verse meaningful.
First of all, we have to trace the circumstances which provide the setting for this verse in the Kevaḍḍhasutta. The Buddha brings out a past episode, relating to the company of monks. A certain monk conceived the riddle: 'Where do these four great primaries, earth, water, fire, and air, cease altogether?' He did not approach the Buddha with his problem, probably because he thought that somewhere in this world-system those four elements could cease.
So what did he do? As he had psychic powers he went from heaven to heaven and Brahma realm to Brahma realm, asking the gods and Brahmas this question: 'Where do these four primaries cease?' None among the gods and Brahmas could answer. In the end, Mahā Brahma himself asked him, why he took the trouble to come all the way there, when he could have easily consulted the Buddha. Then that monk approached the Buddha and put the riddle to him.
But before answering the riddle, the Buddha recommended a restatement of it, saying: 'Monk, that is not the way you should put it. You should have worded it differently.' Now that means that the question is wrongly put. It is incorrect to ask where the four great primaries cease. There is a particular way of wording it. And this is how the Buddha reformulated that riddle:
Kattha āpo ca paṭhavī,
tejo vāyo na gādhati,
kattha dīgha˝ca rassa˝ca,
aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ,
kattha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca,
"Where do earth and water,
Fire and wind no footing find,
Where is it that long and short,
Fine and coarse, pleasant, unpleasant,
As well as name-and-form,
Are held in check in a way complete?"
Here the Buddha introduces a phrase of special significance: na gādhati, 'does not find a footing'. So the question, as restated, means: "Where do the four primaries not get a footing?" The question, then, is not about a cessation of the four primaries, it is not a question of their cessation somewhere in the world or in the world system. The correct way to put it, is to ask where the four great primaries do not find a footing. The Buddha adds that it may also be asked where long and short, fine and coarse, pleasant and unpleasant, as well as name-and-form are held in check completely. The word uparujjhati means 'holding in check'.
Having first reformulated the question, the Buddha gave the answer to it in the verse previously quoted. Let us now try to get at the meaning of this verse. We shall not translate, at the very outset, the first two lines of the verse, vi˝˝āṇaṃ anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ. These two lines convey a very deep meaning. Therefore, to start with, we shall take the expression as it is, and explain its relation to what follows.
It is in this consciousness, which is qualified by the terms anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ, and sabbato pabhaṃ, that earth, water, fire, and air do not find a footing. Also, it is in this consciousness that long and short, fine and coarse, and pleasant and unpleasant, as well as name-and-form, are kept in check. It is by the cessation of consciousness that all these are held in check.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
With the permission of the Most Venerable Great Preceptor and the assembly of the venerable meditative monks. Towards the end of the last sermon we happened to quote a certain verse from the Kevaḍḍhasutta of the Dīgha Nikāya. The verse runs as follows:
anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ,
ettha āpo ca paṭhavī,
tejo vāyo na gādhati,
ettha dīgha˝ca rassa˝ca,
aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ,
ettha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca,
The other day, we could give only a general idea of the meaning of this verse in brief, because of the question of time. Today, we propose to attempt a detailed explanation of it. To start with, we purposely avoid rendering the first two lines, which appear as the crux of the whole verse. Taking those two lines as they are, we could paraphrase the verse as follows:
It is in a consciousness, that is anidassana, ananta, and sabbato pabha, that earth, water, fire, and air do not find a footing. It is in this consciousness that long and short, fine and coarse, and pleasant and unpleasant, as well as name-and-form, are kept in check. It is by the cessation of consciousness that all these are held in check.
Let us now try to sort out the meaning of the difficult words in the first two lines. First of all, in the expression vi˝˝āṇaṃ anidassanaṃ, there is the term anidassana. The meaning of the word nidassana is fairly well known. It means 'illustration'. Something that 'throws light on' or 'makes clear' is called nidassana. This is the basic sense.
We find an instance of the use of this word, even in this basic sense, in the first Kosalasutta among the Tens of the Aṅguttara Nikāya. It is in connection with the description of abhibhāyatanā, bases of mastery, where there is a reference to contemplation devices known as kasiṇa. It is said that even the flax flower can be used initially as a sign for kasiṇa meditation. A flax flower is described in the following words: Umāpupphaṃ nīlaṃ nīlavaṇṇaṃ nīlanidassanaṃ nīlanibhāsaṃ, which may be rendered as: "The flax flower, blue, blue-coloured, manifesting blue, shining blue". Nīlanidassanaṃ suggests that the flax flower is an illustration of blue colour, or that it is a manifestation of blue. Anidassana could therefore be said to refer to whatever does not manifest anything.
In fact, we have a very good example in support of this suggested sense in the Kakacūpamasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya. There we find the Buddha putting a certain question to the monks in order to bring out a simile: "Monks, suppose a man comes with crimson, turmeric, indigo or carmine and says: 'I shall draw pictures and make pictures appear on the sky!' What do you think, monks, could that man draw pictures and make pictures appear there?" Then the monks reply: Aya˝hi, bhante, ākāso arūpī anidassano. Tattha na sukaraṃ rūpaṃ likhituṃ, rūpapātubhāvaṃ kātuṃ. "This sky, Lord, is immaterial and non-illustrative. It is not easy to draw a picture there or make manifest pictures there."
Here we have the words in support of the above suggested meaning. The sky is said to be arūpī anidassano, immaterial and non-illustrative. That is why one cannot draw pictures there or make pictures appear there. There is nothing material in the sky to make manifest pictures. That is, the sense in which it is called anidassano in this context.
Let us now see how meaningful that word is, when used with reference to consciousness as vi˝˝āṇaṃ anidassanaṃ. Why the sky is said to be non-manifestative we could easily understand by the simile. But how can consciousness become non-manifestative? First and foremost we can remind ourselves of the fact that our consciousness has in it the ability to reflect. That ability is called paccavekkhana, 'looking back'. Sometimes the Buddha has given the simile of the mirror with reference to this ability, as for instance in the AmbalatthikāRāhulovādasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya. In the Ānandasutta of the Khandhasaṃyutta, also, he has used the simile of the mirror. In the former sutta preached to Venerable Rāhula the Buddha uses the simile of the mirror to stress the importance of reflection in regard to bodily, verbal, and mental action.
In our last sermon, we gave a simile of a dog crossing a plank over a stream and looking at its own reflection in the water. That, too, is a kind of reflection. But from that we can deduce a certain principle with regard to the question of reflection, namely, that the word stands for a mode of becoming deluded as well as a mode of getting rid of the delusion. What creates a delusion is the way that dog is repeatedly looking down from his own point of view on the plank to see a dog in the water. That is unwise reflection born of non-radical attention, ayoniso manasikāra. Under the influence of the personality view, sakkāyadiṭṭhi, it goes on looking at its own image, wagging its tail and growling. But wise reflection born of radical attention, yoniso manasikāra, is what is recommended in the AmbalatthikāRāhulovādasutta with its thematic repetitive phrase paccavekkhitvā, paccavekkhitvā, "reflecting again and again".
Wise reflection inculcates the Dhamma point of view. Reflection based on right view, sammā diṭṭhi, leads to deliverance. So this is the twin aspect of reflection. But this we mention by the way. The point we wish to stress is that consciousness has in it the nature of reflecting something, like a mirror.
Now vi˝˝āṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is a reference to the nature of the released consciousness of an arahant. It does not reflect anything. To be more precise, it does not reflect a nāma-rūpa, or name-and-form. An ordinary individual sees a nāma-rūpa, when he reflects, which he calls 'I' and 'mine'. It is like the reflection of that dog, which sees its own delusive reflection in the water. A non-arahant, upon reflection, sees name-and-form, which however he mistakes to be his self. With the notion of 'I' and 'mine' he falls into delusion with regard to it. But the arahant's consciousness is an unestablished consciousness.
We have already mentioned in previous sermons about the established consciousness and the unestablished consciousness. A non-arahant's consciousness is established on name-and-form. The unestablished consciousness is that which is free from name-and-form and is unestablished on name-and-form. The established consciousness, upon reflection, reflects name-and-form, on which it is established, whereas the unestablished consciousness does not find a name-and-form as a reality. The arahant has no attachments or entanglements in regard to name-and-form. In short, it is a sort of penetration of name-and-form, without getting entangled in it. This is how we have to unravel the meaning of the expression anidassana vi˝˝āṇa.
By way of further clarification of this sense of anidassana, we may remind ourselves of the fact that manifestation requires something material. That is obvious even from that simile picked up at random from the Kakacūpamasutta. As for the consciousness of the arahant, the verse in question makes it clear that earth, water, fire, and air do not find a footing there.
It is because of these four great primaries that one gets a perception of form. They are said to be the cause and condition for the designation of the aggregate of form: Cattāro kho, bhikkhu, mahābhūtā hetu, cattāro mahābhūtā paccayo rūpakkhandhassa pa˝˝āpanāya. "The four great primaries, monk, are the cause and condition for the designation of the form group".
Now the arahant has freed his mind from these four elements. As it is said in the Dhātuvibhaṅgasutta: Paṭhavīdhātuyā cittaṃ virājeti, "he makes his mind dispassionate with regard to the earth-element". Āpodhātuyā cittaṃ virājeti, "he makes his mind dispassionate with regard to the water-element". As he has freed his mind from the four elements through disenchantment, which makes them fade away, the arahant's reflection does not engender a perception of form. As the verse in question puts it rather rhetorically, ettha āpo ca paṭhavī, tejo vāyo na gādhati, "herein water and earth, fire and air find no footing".
Here the word gādhati is particularly significant. When, for instance, we want to plumb the depth of a deep well, we lower something material as a plumb into the well. Where it comes to stay, we take as the bottom. In the consciousness of the arahant, the material elements cannot find such a footing. They cannot manifest themselves in that unplumbed depth of the arahant's consciousness.
anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ,
ettha āpo ca paṭhavī,
tejo vāyo na gādhati.
"Consciousness, which is non-manifestative,
Endless and lustrous on all sides,
It is here that water, earth,
Fire, and air no footing find."
It is precisely because the material elements cannot make themselves manifest in it, that this consciousness is called 'non-manifestative'. In the same connection we may add that such distinctions as long and short, fine and coarse, and pleasant and unpleasant are not registered in that consciousness, because they pertain to things material. When the consciousness is freed from the four elements, it is also free from the relative distinctions, which are but the standards of measurements proper to those elements.
Let us now consider the implications of the term anantaṃ - 'endless', 'infinite'. We have already said something about the plumbing of the depth of waters. Since the material elements have faded away in that consciousness, they are unable to plumb its depth. They no longer serve as an 'index' to that consciousness. Therefore, that consciousness is endless or infinite.
It is endless also in another sense. With regard to such distinctions as 'long' and 'short' we used the word 'relative'. These are relative concepts. We even refer to them as conjoined pairs of terms. In worldly usage they are found conjoined as 'long and short', 'fine and coarse', 'pleasant and unpleasant'. There is a dichotomy about these concepts, there is a bifurcation. It is as if they are put within a rigid framework.
When, for instance, we go searching for a piece of wood for some purpose or other, we may say: "This piece of wood is too long". Why do we say so? Because we are in need of a shorter one. Instead of saying that it is not 'sufficiently' short, we say it is too long. When we say it is too short, what we mean is that it is not sufficiently long. So then, long and short are relevant within one framework. As a matter of fact, all measurements are relative to some scale or other. They are meaningful within some framework of a scale.
In this sense, too, the worldling's way of thinking has a tendency to go to extremes. It goes to one extreme or the other. When it was said that the world, for the most part, rests on a dichotomy, such as that between the two views 'Is' and 'Is not', this idea of a framework is already implicit. The worldling's ways of thought 'end-up' in one extreme or the other within this framework. The arahant transcends it, his consciousness is, therefore, endless, ananta.
There is a verse in the Pāṭaligāmiyavagga of the Udāna, which clearly brings out this fact. Most of the discourses in that section of the Udāna deal with Nibbāna - Nibbānapaṭisaṃyutta - and the following verse, too, is found in such a discourse.
Duddasaṃ anantaṃ nāma,
na hi saccaṃ sudassanaṃ,
paṭividdhā taṇhā jānato,
passato natthi ki˝canaṃ.
This verse, like many other deep ones, seems to have puzzled the commentators. Let alone the meaning, even the variant readings had posed them a problem, so much so that they end up giving the reader a choice between alternate interpretations. But let us try to get at the general trend of its meaning.
Duddasaṃ anantaṃ nāma, "hard to see is the endless" - whatever that 'endless' be. Na hi saccaṃ sudassanaṃ, "the truth is not easily seen", which in effect is an emphatic assertion of the same idea. One could easily guess that this 'endless' is the truth and that it refers to Nibbāna. Paṭividdhā taṇhā means that "craving has been penetrated through". This penetration is through knowledge and wisdom, the outcome of which is stated in the last line. Janato passato natthi ki˝canaṃ, "to one who know and sees there is NOTHING". The idea is that when craving is penetrated through with knowledge and wisdom, one realizes the voidness of the world. Obviously, the reference here is to Nibbāna.
The entire verse may now be rendered as follows:
"Hard to see is the Endless,
Not easy 'tis to see the truth,
Pierced through is craving,
And naught for him who knows and sees."
The commentator, however, is at a loss to determine whether the correct reading is anataṃ or anantaṃ and leaves the question open. He gives one interpretation in favour of the reading anataṃ. To show its justifiability he says that natā is a synonym for taṇhā, or craving, and that anataṃ is a term for Nibbāna, in the sense that there is no craving in it. It must be pointed out that it is nati and not natā that is used as a synonym for taṇhā.
Anyway, after adducing reasons for the acceptability of the reading anataṃ, he goes on to say that there is a variant reading, anantaṃ, and gives an interpretation in support of it too. In fact, he interprets the word anantaṃ in more than one sense. Firstly, because Nibbāna is permanent, it has no end. And secondly it is endless because it is immeasurable, or appamāṇa.
In our interpretation of the word anantaṃ we have not taken it in the sense of permanence or everlastingness. The word appamāṇa, or immeasurable, can have various nuances. But the one we have stressed is the transcendence of relative concepts, limited by their dichotomous nature. We have also alluded to the unplumbed depth of the arahant's consciousness, in which the four elements do not find a footing.
In the Buddhavagga of the Dhammapada we come across another verse which highlights the extraordinary significance of the word anantaṃ.
Yassa jālinī visattikā,
taṇhā natthi kuhi˝ci netave,
taṃ Buddham anantagocaraṃ,
apadaṃ kena padena nessatha?
Before attempting a translation of this verse, some of the words in it have to be commented upon. Yassa jālinī visattikā. Jālinī is a synonym for craving. It means one who has a net or one who goes netting. Visattikā refers to the agglutinative character of craving. It keeps worldlings glued to objects of sense. The verse may be rendered as follows:
"He who has no craving, with nets in and agglutinates to lead him somewhere - by what track could that Awakened One of infinite range be led - trackless as he is?"
Because the Buddha is of infinite range, he is trackless. His path cannot be traced. Craving wields the net of name-and-form with its glue when it goes ranging. But since the Awakened One has the 'endless' as his range, there is no track to trace him by.
The term anantagocaraṃ means one whose range has no end or limit. If, for instance, one chases a deer, to catch it, one might succeed at least at the end of the pasture. But the Buddha's range is endless and his 'ranging' leaves no track.
The commentators seem to interpret this term as a reference to the Buddha's omniscience - to his ability to attend to an infinite number of objects. But this is not the sense in which we interpret the term here. The very fact that there is 'no object' makes the Buddha's range endless and untraceable. Had there been an object, craving could have netted him in. In support of this interpretation, we may allude to the following couple of verses in the Arahantavagga of the Dhammapada.
Yesaṃ sannicayo natthi,
ye pari˝˝āta bhojanā,
su˝˝ato animitto ca,
vimokkho yesa gocaro,
ākāse va sakuntānaṃ,
gati tesaṃ durannayā.
āhāre ca anissito,
su˝˝āto animitto ca,
vimokkho yassa gocaro,
ākāse va sakuntānaṃ,
padaṃ tassa durannayaṃ.
Both verses express more or less the same idea. Let us examine the meaning of the first verse. The first two lines are: Yesaṃ sannicayo natthi, ye pari˝˝āta bhojanā. "Those who have no accumulation and who have comprehended their food". The words used here are charged with deep meanings. Verses in the Dhammapada are very often rich in imagery. The Buddha has on many occasions presented the Dhamma through deep similes and metaphors. If the metaphorical sense of a term is ignored, one can easily miss the point.
For instance, the word sannicaya, in this context, which we have rendered as 'accumulation', is suggestive of the heaping up of the five aggregates. The word upacaya is sometimes used with reference to this process of heaping up that goes on in the minds of the worldlings. Now this heaping up, as well as the accumulation of kamma, is not there in the case of an arahant. Also, they have comprehended their food. The comprehension of food does not mean simply the usual reflection on food in terms of elements. Nor does it imply just one kind of food, but all the four nutriments mentioned in the Dhamma, namely kabaḷiṅkārāhāra, material food, phassa, contact, manosa˝cetanā, volition, and vi˝˝āṇa, consciousness.
The next two lines tell us what the true range or pasture of the arahants is. It is an echo of the idea of comprehension of food as well as the absence of accumulation. Su˝˝ato animitto ca, vimokkho yesa gocaro, "whose range is the deliverance of the void and the signless". When the arahants are in their attainment to the fruit of arahant-hood, their minds turn towards the void and the signless. When they are on this feeding-ground, neither Māra nor craving can catch them with their nets. They are trackless - hence the last two lines ākāse va sakuntānaṃ, gati tesa durannayā, "their track is hard to trace, like that of birds in the sky".
The word gati in this last line is interpreted by the commentators as a reference to the 'whereabouts' of the arahants after their parinibbāna. It has dubious associations of some place as a destination. But in this context, gati does not lend itself to such an interpretation. It only refers to their mental compass, which is untraceable, because of their deliverance trough the void and the signless.
The next verse also bring out this idea. Yassāsavā parikkhīṇā, āhāre ca anissito, "whose influxes are extinct and who is unattached in regard to nutriment". Su˝˝āto animitto ca, vimokkho yassa gocaro, "whose range is the void and the signless". Ākāse va sakuntānaṃ, padaṃ tassa durannayaṃ, "his path is hard to trace, like that of birds in the sky". This reminds us of the last line of the verse quoted earlier, apadaṃ kena padena nessatha, "by what track could one lead him, who is trackless"? These two verses, then, throw more light on the meaning of the expression anantagocara - of infinite range - used as an epithet for the Awakened One.
Let us now get at the meaning of the term sabbato pabham, in the context vi˝˝āṇaṃ anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ. In our discussion of the significance of the drama and the cinema we mentioned that it is the darkness in the background which keeps the audience entranced in a way that they identify themselves with the characters and react accordingly. The darkness in the background throws a spell of delusion. That is what makes for 'enjoyment'.
Of course, there is some sort of light in the cinema hall. But that is very limited. Some times it is only a beam of light, directed on the screen. In a previous sermon we happened to mention that even in the case of a matinee show, dark curtains and closed doors and windows ensure the necessary dark background. Here, in this simile, we have a clue to the meaning sabbato pabhaṃ, luminous or lustrous on all sides. Suppose a matinee show is going on and one is enjoying it, entranced and deluded by it. Suddenly doors and windows are flung open and the dark curtains are removed. Then immediately one slips out of the cinema world. The film may go on, but because of the light coming from all sides, the limited illumination on the screen fades away, before the total illumination. The film thereby loses its enjoyable quality.
As far as consciousness, or vi˝˝āṇa, is concerned, it is not something completely different from wisdom, pa˝˝ā, as it is defined in the Mahāvedallasutta. However, there is also a difference between them, pa˝˝ā bhāvetabbā, vi˝˝āṇaṃ pari˝˝eyyaṃ, "wisdom is to be developed, consciousness is to be comprehended". Here it is said that one has to comprehend the nature of consciousness.
Then one may ask: 'We are understanding everything with consciousness, so how can one understand consciousness?' But the Buddha has shown us the way of doing it. Wisdom, when it is developed, enables one to comprehend consciousness. In short, consciousness is as narrow as that beam of light falling on the cinema screen. That is to say, the specifically prepared consciousness, or the consciousness crammed up in name-and-form, as in the case of the non-arahant. It is as narrow as the perspective of the audience glued to the screen. The consciousness of the ordinary worldling is likewise limited and committed.
Now what happens when it is fully illuminated on all sides with wisdom? It becomes sabbato pabhaṃ, lustrous an all sides. In that lustre, which comes from all sides, the framework of ignorance fades away. It is that released consciousness, free from the dark framework of ignorance, that is called the consciousness which is lustrous on all sides, in that cryptic verse in question. This lustre, associated with wisdom, has a special significance according to the discourses. In the Catukkanipāta of the Aṅguttara Nikāya we come across the following sutta:
Catasso imā, bhikkhave, pabhā. Katamā catasso? Candappabhā, suriyappabhā, aggippabhā, pa˝˝āpabhā. Imā kho, bhikkhave, catasso pabhā. Etad aggaṃ, bhikkhave, imāsaṃ catunnaṃ pabhānaṃ yadidaṃ pa˝˝āpabhā.  "Monks, there are these four lustres. Which four? The lustre of the moon, the lustre of the sun, the lustre of fire, and the lustre of wisdom. These, monks, are the four lustres. This, monks, is the highest among these four lustres, namely the lustre of wisdom."
Another important discourse, quoted quite often, though not always correctly interpreted, is the following:
Pabhassaram idaṃ, bhikkhave, cittaṃ. Ta˝ca kho āgantukehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭhaṃ. Taṃ assutavā puthujjano yathābhūtaṃ nappajānāti. Tasmā assutavato puthujjanassa citta bhāvanā natthī'ti vadāmi.
Pabhassaram idaṃ, bhikkhave, cittaṃ. Ta˝ca kho āgantukehi upakkilesehi vippamuttaṃ. Taṃ sutavā ariyasāvako yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti. Tasmā sutavato ariyasāvakassa citta bhāvanā atthī'ti vadāmi.
"This mind, monks, is luminous, but it is defiled by extraneous defilements. That, the uninstructed ordinary man does not understand as it is. Therefore, there is no mind development for the ordinary man, I declare.
This mind, monks, is luminous, but it is released from extraneous defilements. That, the instructed noble disciple understands as it is. Therefore, there is mind development for the instructed noble disciple, I declare."
It is sufficiently clear, then, that the allusion is to the luminous mind, the consciousness of the arahant, which is non-manifestative, infinite, and all lustrous. To revert to the analogy of the cinema which, at least in a limited sense, helps us to form an idea about it, we have spoken about the stilling of all preparations. Now in the case of the film, too, there is a stilling of preparations. That is to say, the preparations which go to make it a 'movie' film are 'stilled'. The multicoloured dresses of actors and actresses become colourless before that illumination, even in the case of a technicolour film. The scenes on the screen get blurred before the light that suddenly envelops them.
And what is the outcome of it? The preparations going on in the minds of the audience, whether induced by the film producers or aroused from within, are calmed down at least temporarily. This symbolizes, in a limited sense, the significance of the phrase sabbasaṅkhārasamatha, the stilling of all preparations.
Then what about the relinquishment of all assets, sabbūpadhipaṭinissagga? In the context of the film show, it is the bundle of experiences coming out of one's 'vested-interests' in the marvellous cinema world. These assets are relinquished at least for the moment. Destruction of craving, taṇhakkhayo, is momentarily experienced with regard to the blurred scenes on the screen.
As to the term virāga, we have already shown that it can be understood in two senses, that is, dispassion as well as the fading away which brings about the dispassion. Now in this case, too, the fading away occurred, not by any other means, but by the very fact that the limited narrow beam of consciousness got superseded by the unlimited light of wisdom.
Nirodha means cessation, and the film has now ceased to be a film, though the machines are still active. We have already mentioned that in the last analysis a film is produced by the audience. So its cessation, too, is a matter for the audience. This, then, is the cessation of the film.
Now comes Nibbāna, extinction or extinguishment. Whatever heated emotions and delirious excitements that arose out of the film show cooled down, at least momentarily, when the illumination takes over. This way we can form some idea, somewhat inferentially, about the meaning and significance of the term sabbato pabhaṃ, with the help of this illustration based on the film show.
So now we have tackled most of the difficulties to the interpretation of this verse. In fact, it is the few words occurring in the first two lines that has posed an insoluble problem to scholars both eastern and western. We have not yet given the commentarial interpretation, and that, not out of disrespect for the venerable commentators. It is because their interpretation is rather hazy and inconclusive. However, we shall be presenting that interpretation at the end of this discussion, so as to give the reader an opportunity to compare it with ours.
But for the present, let us proceed to say something about the last two lines as well. Vi˝˝āṇassa nirodhena, etth'etaṃ uparujjhati. As we saw above, for all practical purposes, name-and-form seem to cease, even like the fading away of the scenes on the cinema screen. Then what is meant by this phrase vi˝˝āṇassa nirodhena, with the cessation of consciousness? The reference here is to that abhisaṅkhata vi˝˝āṇa, or the specifically prepared consciousness. It is the cessation of that concocted type of consciousness which was formerly there, like the one directed on the cinema screen by the audience. With the cessation of that specifically prepared consciousness, all constituents of name-and-form are said to be held in check, uparujjhati.
Here, too, we have a little problem. Generally, nirujjhati and uparujjhati are regarded as synonymous. The way these two verbs are used in some suttas would even suggest that they mean the same thing. As a matter of fact, even the CūḷaNiddesa, which is a very old commentary, paraphrases uparujjhati by nirujjhati: uparujjhatī'ti nirujjhati.
Nevertheless, in the context of this particular verse, there seems to be something deep involved in the distinction between these two verbs. Even at a glance, the two lines in question are suggestive of some distinction between them. Vi˝˝āṇassa nirodhena, etth'etaṃ uparujjhati, the nirodha of consciousness is said to result in the uparodha of whatever constitutes name-and-form. This is intriguing enough.
But that is not all. By way of preparing the background for the discussion, we have already made a brief allusion to the circumstances in which the Buddha uttered this verse. What provided the context for its utterance was a riddle that occurred to a certain monk in a moment of fancy. The riddle was: 'Where do these four great primaries cease altogether?' There the verb used is nirujjhanti. So in order to find where they cease, he whimsically went from heaven to heaven and from Brahma-world to Brahma-world. As we mentioned earlier, too, it was when the Mahā Brahma directed that monk to the Buddha, saying: 'Why 'on earth' did you come all this way when the Buddha is there to ask?', that the Buddha reworded the question. He pointed out that the question was incorrectly worded and revised it as follows, before venturing to answer it:
Kattha āpo ca paṭhavī,
tejo vāyo na gādhati,
kattha dīgha˝ca rassa˝ca,
aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ,
kattha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca,
asesaṃ uparujjhati? 
The word used by the Buddha in this revised version is uparujjhati and not nirujjhati. Yet another innovation is the use of the term na gādhati. Where do water, earth, fire, and air find no footing? Or where do they not get established? In short, here is a word suggestive of plumbing the depth of a reservoir. We may hark back to the simile given earlier, concerning the plumbing of the consciousness with the perception of form. Where do the four elements not find a footing? Also, where are such relative distinctions as long and short, subtle and gross, pleasant and unpleasant, as well as name-and-form, completely held in check?
In this restatement of the riddle, the Buddha has purposely avoided the use of the verb nirujjhati. Instead, he had recourse to such terms as na gādhati, 'does not find a footing', 'does not plumb', and uparujjhati, 'is held in check', or 'is cut off'. This is evidence enough to infer that there is a subtle distinction between the nuances associated with the two verbs nirujjhati and uparujjhati.
What is the secret behind this peculiar usage? The problem that occurred to this monk is actually of the type that the materialists of today conceive of. It is, in itself, a fallacy. To say that the four elements cease somewhere in the world, or in the universe, is a contradiction in terms. Why? Because the very question: 'Where do they cease?', presupposes an answer in terms of those elements, by way of defining that place. This is the kind of uncouth question an ordinary materially inclined person would ask.
That is why the Buddha reformulated the question, saying: 'Monk, that is not the way to put the question. You should not ask 'where' the four great primaries cease, but rather where they, as well as the concepts of long and short, subtle and gross, pleasant and unpleasant, and name-and-form, are held in check.' The question proper is not where the four great primaries cease, but where they do not get established and where all their accompaniments are held in check.
Here, then, we see the Buddha relating the concept of matter, which the world takes for granted, to the perception of form arising in the mind. The four great primaries haunt the minds of the worldlings like ghosts, so they have to be exorcised from their minds. It is not a question of expelling them from this world, or from any heavenly realm, or the entire world-system. That exorcism should take place in this very consciousness, so as to put an end to this haunting.
Before the light of wisdom those ghosts, namely the four great primaries, become ineffective. It is in the darkness of ignorance that these ghosts haunt the worldlings with the perception of form. They keep the minds of the worldlings bound, glued, committed and limited. What happens now is that the specifically prepared consciousness, which was bound, glued, committed and limited, becomes fully released, due to the light of wisdom, to become non-manifestative, endless, and lustrous on all sides. So, to sum up, we may render the verse in question as follows:
"Consciousness, which is non-manifestative,
Endless, lustrous on all sides,
Here it is that earth and water,
Fire and air no footing find,
Here it is that long and short,
Fine and coarse, pleasant, unpleasant,
Are cut off without exception,
When consciousness has surceased,
These are held in check herein."
Though we ventured to translate the verse, we have not yet given the commentarial interpretation of it. Since this might seem a shortcoming, we shall now present what the commentator has to say on this verse.
Venerable Buddhaghosa, before coming to this verse in his commentary to the Kevaḍḍhasutta, gives an explanation as to why the Buddha reformulated the original question of that monk. According to him, the question: 'Where do the four great primaries cease?', implied both the organic and the inorganic aspects of matter, and in revising it, the Buddha limited its scope to the organic. In other words, Venerable Buddhaghosa presumes that the revised version has to be interpreted with reference to this human body. Hence he explains such words as 'long' and 'short', occurring in the verse, in a limited sense as referring to the body's stature. How facile this interpretation turns out to be, one can easily discern as we go on.
Venerable Buddhaghosa keeps on reminding the reader that the questions are relevant only to the organic realm, upādinnaṃ yeva sandhāya pucchati.  So he interprets the terms dīgha˝ca rassa˝ca, long and short, as relative distinctions of a person's height, that is tallness and shortness. Similarly, the words aṇuṃ thūlaṃ, subtle and gross, are said to mean the small and big in the size of the body. Likewise subha and asubhaṃ are taken to refer to the comely and the ugly in terms of body's appearance.
The explanation given to the phrase nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca is the most astounding of all. Nāma is said to be the name of the person and rūpa is his form or shape. All this goes to show that the commentator has gone off at a tangent, even in the interpretation of this verse, which is more or less the prologue to such an intricate verse as the one in question. He has blundered at the very outset in limiting the scope of those relative terms to the organic, thereby obscuring the meaning of that deep verse.
The significance of these relative terms, from the linguistic point of view, has been overlooked. Words like dīghaṃ/rassaṃ and aṇuṃ/ thūlaṃ do not refer to the stature and size of some person. What they convey is the dichotomous nature of concepts in the world. All those deeper implications are obscured by the reference to a person's outward appearance. The confusion becomes worse confounded, when nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca is interpreted as the name and the shape of a person. So the stage is already set for a shallow interpretation, even before presenting the verse beginning with vi˝˝āṇaṃ anidassanaṃ.
It is on such an unsound premise that the commentator bases his interpretation of the verse in question. We shall try to do justice to that exposition, too. It might necessitate a fair amount of quotations, though it is difficult to be comprehensive in this respect.
The commentator begins his exposition with the word vi˝˝āṇaṃ itself. He comes out with a peculiar etymology: Vi˝˝āṇan'ti tattha vi˝˝ātabbanti vi˝˝āṇaṃ nibbānassa nāmaṃ, which means that the word vi˝˝āṇa, or consciousness, is in this context a synonym for Nibbāna, in the sense that it is 'to be known', vi˝˝ātabbaṃ. This forced etymology is far from convincing, since such a usage is not attested elsewhere. Moreover, we come across a long list of epithets for Nibbāna, as many as thirty-three, in the Asaṅkhatasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya, but vi˝˝āṇa is not counted as one. In fact, nowhere in the discourses is vi˝˝āṇa used as a synonym for Nibbāna.
Next, he takes up the word anidassana, and makes the following comment: Tad etaṃ nidassanābhāvato anidassanaṃ, that Nibbāna is called anidassana because no illustration for it could be given. The idea is that it has nothing to compare with. Then comes the explanation of the word anantaṃ. According to the commentator Nibbāna is called ananta, endless, because it has neither the arising-end, uppādanto, nor the falling-end, vayanto, nor the otherwiseness of the persisting-end, ṭhitassa a˝˝athatta. Strangely enough, even the last mentioned middle-state is counted as an 'end' in the commentators concept of three ends. So this is the substance of his commentary to the first three words vi˝˝āṇaṃ, anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ.
The commentarial interpretation of the term sabbato pabhaṃ is even more confusing. The word pabhā is explained as a synonym for papa, meaning 'ford'. The bha element in the word, he explains, is a result of consonantal interchange with the original pa in papa. Pakārassa pana bhakāro kato. The idea is that the original form of this particular term for Nibbāna is sabbato papaṃ. The meaning attributed to it is 'with fords on all sides'. Nibbāna is supposed to be metaphorically conceived as the ocean, to get down into which there are fords on all sides, namely the thirty-eight topics of meditation. This interpretation seems rather far fetched. It is as if the commentator has resorted to this simile of a ford, because he is already 'in deep waters'! The word pabhā, as it is, clearly means light, or radiance, and its association with wisdom is also well attested in the canon.
Though in his commentary to the Dīgha Nikāya Venerable Buddhaghosa advances the above interpretation, in his commentary to the Majjhima Nikāya he seems to have had second thoughts on the problem. In the Brahmanimantanikasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya, also, the first two lines of the verse, vi˝˝āṇaṃ anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ, occur . But here the commentator follows a different line of interpretation. Whereas in his commentary to the Kevaḍḍhasutta he explains anidassanaṃ as an epithet of Nibbāna, in the sense of having nothing to compare with, here he takes it in the sense of not being visible to the eye. Cakkhuvi˝˝āṇassa āpāthaṃ anupagamanato anidassanaṃ nāma, "it is called anidassana because it does not come within the range of eye-consciousness".
In explaining the term sabbato pabhaṃ, he suggests several alternative interpretations. In the first interpretation, he takes pabhā to mean light, or lustre. Sabbato pabhan'ti sabbato pabhāsampannaṃ. Nibbānato hi a˝˝o dhammo sappabhataro vā jotivantataro vā parisuddhataro vā paṇḍarataro vā natthi. "Sabbato pabhaṃ means more lustrous than anything else. For there is nothing more lustrous or luminous or purer or whiter than Nibbāna". In this interpretation Nibbāna is even regarded as something white in colour!
The etymology of the term sabbato pabhaṃ has been given a twist, for the word sabbato is taken in a comparative sense, 'more lustrous than anything'. As we have pointed out, the term actually means 'lustrous on all sides'. Then a second interpretation is given, bringing in the word pabhū, 'lord' or 'chief'. Sabbato vā pabhū, that is to say more prominent than anything else. In support of it he says: Asukadisāya nāma nibbānaṃ natthī'ti na vattabbaṃ, "it should not be said that in such and such a direction Nibbāna is not to be found". He says that it is called pabhū, or lord, because it is to be found in all directions. Only as the third interpretation he cites his simile of the ford already given in his commentary to the Kevaḍḍhasutta.
What is the reason for giving so many figurative interpretations as alternatives to such a significant verse? Surely the Buddha would not have intended the verse to convey so many conflicting meanings, when he preached it.
No doubt the commentators have made a great effort to preserve the Dhamma, but due to some unfortunate historical circumstances, most of the deep discourses dealing with the subject of Nibbāna have been handed down without even a clue to the correct version among variant readings. This has left the commentators nonplussed, so much so that they had to give us several vague and alternative interpretations to choose from. It is up to us to decide, whether we should accept this position as it is, or try to improve on it by exploring any other possible means of explanation.
We had occasion to mention in our very first sermon that the Buddha himself has prophesied that those discourse which deal with voidness would, in time to come, go into disuse, with their deeper meanings obscured. The interpretations just quoted go to show that already the prediction has come true to a great extent.
The phrase we quoted from the Brahmanimantanikasutta with its reference to anidassana vi˝˝āṇa occurs in a context which has a significance of its own. The relevant paragraph, therefore, deserves some attention. It runs as follows:
Vi˝˝ānaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ, taṃ paṭhaviyā paṭhavittena ananubhūtaṃ, āpassa āpattena ananubhūtaṃ, tejassa tejattena ananubhūtaṃ, vāyassa vāyattena ananubhūtaṃ, bhūtānaṃ bhūtattena ananubhūtaṃ, devānaṃ devattena ananubhūtaṃ, pajāpatissa pajāpatittena ananubhūtaṃ, brahmānaṃ brahmattena ananubhūtaṃ, ābhassarānaṃ ābhassarattena ananubhūtaṃ, subhakiṇhānaṃ subhakiṇhattena ananubhūtaṃ, vehapphalānaṃ vehapphalatte ananubhūtaṃ, abhibhussa abhibhuttena ananubhūtaṃ, sabbassa sabbattena ananubhūtaṃ.
"Consciousness which makes nothing manifest, infinite and all lustrous, it does not partake of the earthiness of earth, the wateriness of water, the fieriness of fire, the airiness of air, the creature-hood of creatures, the deva-hood of devas, the Pajāpati-hood of Pajāpati, the Brahma-hood of Brahma, the radiance of the Radiant Ones, the Subhakiṇha-hood of the Subhakiṇha Brahmas, the Vehapphala-hood of the Vehapphala Brahmas, the overlord-ship of the overlord, and the all-ness of the all."
This peculiar paragraph, listing thirteen concepts, seems to convey something deep about the nature of the non-manifestative consciousness. That consciousness does not partake of the earthiness of earth, the wateriness of water, the fieriness of fire, and the airiness of air. That is to say, the nature of the four elements does not inhere in this consciousness, they do not manifest themselves in it. Similarly, the other concepts, like deva-hood, Brahma-hood, etc., which the worldlings take seriously as real, have no applicability or validity here.
The special significance of this assertion lies in the context in which the Buddha declared it. It is to dispel a wrong view that Baka the Brahma conceived, in regarding his Brahma status as permanent, ever lasting and eternal, that the Buddha made this declaration before that Brahma himself in the Brahma world. The whole point of the discourse, then, is to challenge the wrong view of the Brahma, by asserting that the non-manifestative consciousness of the arahant is above the worldly concepts of elements and divinity and the questionable reality attributed to them. In other words, they do not manifest themselves in it. They are transcended.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
The other day we ended our sermon by discussing how far the Brahmanimantanikasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya helps us to understand what anidassana vi˝˝āṇa is. We quoted a certain paragraph from that discourse as a starting point for our discussion. Let us now remind ourselves of it:
Vi˝˝ānaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ, taṃ paṭhaviyā paṭhavittena ananubhūtaṃ, āpassa āpattena ananubhūtaṃ, tejassa tejattena ananubhūtaṃ, vāyassa vāyattena ananubhūtaṃ, bhūtānaṃ bhūtattena ananubhūtaṃ, devānaṃ devattena ananubhūtaṃ, pajāpatissa pajāpatittena ananubhūtaṃ, brahmānaṃ brahmattena ananubhūtaṃ, ābhassarānaṃ ābhassarattena ananubhūtaṃ, subhakiṇhānaṃ subhakiṇhattena ananubhūtaṃ, vehapphalānaṃ vehapphalattena ananubhūtaṃ, abhibhussa abhibhuttena ananubhūtaṃ, sabbassa sabbattena ananubhūtaṃ.
"Consciousness which makes nothing manifest, infinite and all lustrous. It does not partake of the earthiness of earth, the wateriness of water, the fieriness of fire, the airiness of air, the creature-hood of creatures, the deva-hood of devas, the Pajāpati-hood of Pajāpati, the Brahma-hood of Brahma, the radiance of the Radiant Ones, the Subhakiṇha-hood of the Subhakiṇha Brahmas, the Vehapphala-hood of the Vehapphala Brahmas, the overlord-ship of the overlord, and the all-ness of the all."
The gist of this paragraph is that the non-manifestative consciousness which is infinite and all lustrous, is free from the qualities associated with any of the concepts in the list, such as the earthiness of earth and the wateriness of water. That is to say it is not under their influence, it does not partake of them, ananubhūtaṃ. Whatever nature the world attributes to these concepts, whatever reality they invest it with, that is not registered in this non-manifestative consciousness. That is why this consciousness is said to be uninfluenced by them.
Usually, the worldlings attribute a certain degree of reality to concepts in everyday usage. These may be reckoned as mind-objects, things that the mind attends to. The word dhamma also means 'a thing', so the worldling thinks that there is some-'thing' in each of these concepts. Or, in other words, they believe that there is some-thing as an inherent nature or essence in these objects of the mind.
But the quotation in question seems to imply that this so-called nature is not registered in the arahant's mind. It is extremely necessary for the worldling to think that there is some real nature in these mind-objects. Why? Because in order to think of them as objects they have to have some essence, at least they must be invested with an essence, and so the worldlings do invest them with some sort of an essence, and that is the earthiness of earth, the wateriness of water, (etc.). Likewise there is a being-hood in beings, a deva-hood in devas, a Pajāpati-hood in Pajāpati, a Brahma-hood in Brahma, so much so that even in the concept of all, there is an all-ness - and this is the worldlings' standpoint.
Attributing a reality to whatever concept that comes up, the worldlings create for themselves perceptions of permanence, perceptions of the beautiful, and perceptions of self. In other words, they objectify these concepts in terms of craving, conceit and views. That objectification takes the form of some inherent nature attributed to them, such as earthiness, deva-hood (etc.).
But as for the non-manifestative consciousness, it is free from the so-called natures that delude the worldlings. In the consciousness of the arahants, there is not that infatuation with regard to the mass of concepts which the worldlings imagine as real, in order to keep going this drama of existence. This fact is clearly borne out by another statement in the Brahmanimantanikasutta. The Buddha makes the following declaration, to break the conceit of Baka the Brahma, who conceived the idea of permanence regarding his status as a Brahma:
Paṭhaviṃ kho ahaṃ, brahme, paṭhavito abhi˝˝āya yāvatā paṭhaviyā paṭhavittena ananubhūtaṃ tadabhi˝˝āya paṭhaviṃ nāhosim, paṭhaviyā nāhosiṃ, paṭhavito nāhosiṃ, paṭhaviṃ me'ti nāhosiṃ, paṭhaviṃ nābhivadiṃ
"Having understood through higher knowledge earth as earth, O Brahma," (that is to say having understood by means of a special kind of knowledge, and not by means of the ordinary sense-perception) "and having understood through higher knowledge whatever that does not partake of the earthiness of earth", (the reference here is to that non-manifestative consciousness, which is to be described in the passage to follow) "I did not claim to be earth", paṭhaviṃ nāhosim, "I did not claim to be on earth", paṭhaviyā nāhosiṃ, "I did not claim to be from earth", paṭhavito nāhosiṃ, "I did not claim earth as mine", paṭhaviṃ me'ti nāhosiṃ, "I did not assert earth", paṭhaviṃ nābhivadiṃ.
The declensional forms given here are also suggestive of the fact that once the worldlings attribute some inherent nature to those concepts in terms of a 'ness', as in earthy-ness, and make them amenable to their cravings, conceits and views, declensional forms come into usage, a few instances of which have been mentioned here. So, with regard to this earth, one can conceive of it as 'my earth', or as 'I am on earth', or 'I who am on the earth', or 'from the earth'. By holding on tenaciously to these declensional forms of one's own creation, one is only asserting one's ego.
Now, for instance, we all know that what is called 'a flower' is something that can fade away. But when one conceives of it as 'The-flower-I-saw', and thereby appropriates it into the concept of an I, it gets invested with the nature of permanence, since it can be 're-called'. A perception of permanence which enables one to think about it again, arises out of it. This is the idea behind the above reference.
It is in the nature of the released mind not to take these concepts seriously. It does not have a tenacious grasp on these declensional forms. It is convinced of the fact that they are mere conventions in ordinary usage. Due to that conviction itself, it is not subject to them. "I did not claim to be earth, I did not claim to be on earth, I did not claim to be from earth, I did not claim earth as mine, I did not assert earth", paṭhaviṃ nābhivadiṃ.
Here the word abhivadiṃ is suggestive of conceit. The three terms abhinandati, abhivadati and ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati are often mentioned together in the discourses. Abhinandati means delighting in particular, which is suggestive of craving. Abhivadati means an assertion by way of conceit - an assertion which implies 'a taking up' of something. Ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati stands for dogmatic involvement regarding views. Thus abhinandati, abhivadati and ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati correspond to the three terms taṇhā, craving, māna, conceit, and diṭṭhi, views, respectively.
Now out of these, what we find here is abhivadati - paṭhaviṃ nābhivadiṃ, "I did not assert earth" - I did not make any assertion about earth by way of conceit. From this, too, we can infer that the ordinary man in this world takes his perception of the earth seriously, and by conceiving of it as 'earth is mine', 'I am on the earth', (etc.), invests the concepts with a permanent nature. But this is a kind of device the worldlings adopt in order to perpetuate the drama of existence. However, everyone of these elements is void.
In this particular context, the four elements earth, water, fire and air, are mentioned at the very outset. The Buddha, having understood the emptiness and impermanence of these elements, does not cling to them. The ordinary worldling, on the other hand, clings to the perception of earth in a piece of ice because of its hardness. But as we know, when we heat it up to a certain degree, its watery quality reveals itself. Further heating would bring up its fiery nature. Continuous heating will convert it into vapour, revealing its air quality.
Thus these four great primaries, which the world clings to, also have the nature of impermanence about them. The emancipated one, who rightly understands this impermanence through his higher knowledge, does not get upset by their ghostly configurations. His consciousness is not subject to them. This is the import of the above paragraph.
The same holds true with regard to the other concepts. Saṃsāric beings have their conventional usages. One might think of oneself as a god among gods. Now Baka the Brahma had the conceit 'I am a Brahma'. But even his Brahma-status gets melted away like that piece of ice, at least after some aeons. So even Brahma-hood is subject to 'liquidation', like an ice-cube.
In this way, the released consciousness of the arahant does not register a perception of permanence with regard to the concepts which masquerade as real in the worldling's drama of existence. That is why it is called 'non-manifestative' consciousness. That non-manifestative consciousness is free from those concepts.
By way of further explanation of the nature of this released mind, we may drop a hint through the analogy of the film and the drama, which we have employed throughout. Now, for instance, in order to produce a tragic scene on the screen, the film producers adopt subtle devices and camera tricks. Sometimes an awe-inspiring scene of conflagration or ruthless arson, which drives terror into the hearts of the audience, is produced with the help of cardboard houses. Cardboard houses are set on fire, but the audience is hoodwinked into thinking that a huge mansion is on fire. Similarly, terrific traffic accidents are displayed on the screen with the help of a few toys.
In this drama of existence, too, there are similar tragic scenes. Now, in spite of their tragic quality, if any member of the audience truly understands at that moment that these are cardboard houses and toys toppled from hill tops, he sees something comic in the apparently tragic. Likewise, in this drama of existence, there is a tragic aspect as well as a comic aspect.
As a matter of fact, both these words, tragic and comic, can be accommodated within the highly significant term saṃvega, anguish, sense of urgency. In trying to arouse saṃvega with regard to saṅkhāras, or preparations, we could bring in both these attitudes. The ordinary worldling sees only the tragic side of the drama of existence, and that because of his ignorance. But the arahant, the emancipated one, sees in this drama of existence a comic side as well.
As an illustration we may allude to those occasions in which the Buddha himself and those disciples with psychic powers like Venerable MahāMoggalāna, are said to have shown a faint smile, situppāda, on seeing how beings in saṃsāra are reborn in high and low realms according to their deeds, as in a puppet show. Of course, that spontaneous smile has nothing sarcastic or unkind about it. But all the same, it gives us a certain hint. This spontaneous smile seems to be the outcome of an insight into the comic aspect of this existential drama. The faint smile is aroused by the conviction of the utter futility and insubstantiality of the existential drama, seeing how beings who enjoyed high positions come down to the level of hungry ghosts, petas, or even to lower realms in their very next birth. It is somewhat like the response of one who has correctly understood the impermanence and the illusory nature of things shown on a film screen.
When one comes to think of this drama of existence, saṃsāric beings appear like puppets drawn upwards by the five higher fetters, uddhambhāgiya saṃyojana, and drawn downwards by the five lower fetters, orambhāgiya saṃyojana. They reappear more or less like puppets, manipulated up and down by strings, which are but the results of their own deeds.
The wherewithal for the drama of existence is supplied by the four great primaries - the four basic elements of earth, water, fire and air. In the case of a film or a drama, sometimes the same object can be improvised in a number of ways, to produce various scenes and acts. What in one scene serves as a sitting-stool, could be improvised as a footstool in another scene, and as a table in yet another. Similarly, there is something called double-acting in films. The same actor can delineate two characters and appear in different guises in two scenes.
A similar state of affairs is to be found in this drama of existence. In fact, the Buddha has declared that there is not a single being in saṃsāra who has not been one of our relations at some time or other. We are in the habit of putting down such relations to a distant past, in order to avoid a rift in our picture of the world by upsetting social conventions. But when one comes to think of it in accordance with the Dhamma, and also on the strength of certain well attested facts, sometimes the male or the female baby cuddled by a mother could turn out to be her own dead father or mother.
Such a strangely ludicrous position is to be found in the acts of this drama of existence. Usually the world is unaware of such happenings. Though ludicrous, the world cannot afford to laugh at it. Rather, it should be regarded as a sufficient reason for arousing an anguished sense of urgency: 'What a pity that we are subject to such a state of affairs! What a pity that we do not understand it because of the power of influxes and latencies and thereby heap up defilements!'
Such an awareness of the emptiness of all this can give rise to anguish. One can get some understanding on the lines of the signless, the unsatisfactory, and the void, by contemplating these facts. One can also contemplate on the four elements, how they are at the beginning of a world period, and how they get destroyed at the end of a world period, in the conflagration at the end of an aeon. Likewise, when one comes to think of the state of persons or beings in general, in accordance with this fact of relationship, there is much room for anguish and a sense of urgency.
It is because of all this that the Buddha sometimes declares, as in the discourse on the rising of seven suns, Sattasuriyasutta, that this is "enough to get disenchanted with all preparations, enough to get detached from them, enough to get released from them", alameva sabbasaṅkhāresu nibbindituṃ alaṃ virajjituṃ alaṃ vimuccituṃ.
We have been drawing upon a particular nuance of the term saṅkhāra throughout, that is, as things comparable to those instruments, temporarily improvised in a dramatic performance just for the purpose of producing various acts on the stage. It is the same with persons, who are like actors playing their parts.
Beings, who are born in accordance with their karma, entertain the conceit 'I am a god', 'I am a Brahma'. Once their karma is spent up, they get destroyed and are reborn somewhere or other. It is the same with those items used in a drama, such as the stool and the footstool. But the intriguing fact is that those in the audience, watching each of those acts, grasp as such whatever objects they see on the stage when they produce their individual dramas.
We have already mentioned at the very outset that the final stage in the production of a drama is a matter for the audience and not for the theatricians. Each member of the audience creates a drama in his own mind, putting together all preparations. What serves as a stool in one act of the drama, may be used as a footstool in the next. In the first instance it sinks into the minds of the audience as a stool, and in the next as a footstool. It is the same in the case of beings and their relationships.
It must have been due to this state of affairs in the drama of existence, which arouses anguish, that the Buddha makes the declaration in quite a number of discourses dealing with the topic of impermanence, including those which describe the destruction of the aeon: 'This is enough, monks, to get disenchanted with all preparations, to get detached from them, to get released from them'.
These preparations are comparable to a film reel, which is the basic requirement for the film of name-and-form shown on the screen of consciousness of beings in this world. As the world is regarded as a sort of stage, trees, beings and objects in our environment are like objects on the stage. But the intriguing fact about it is that the ordinary man in the world is unaware of their 'prepared' nature as a framework.
When one is watching a film, one becomes unaware of the fact that it is just something shown on the screen. At that moment it appears as something real and life-like. It is about this apparent reality that the Buddha speaks when he utters the following lines in the Itivuttaka: Jātaṃ bhūtaṃ samuppannaṃ, kataṃ saṅkhatamaddhuvaṃ; "born, become, arisen, made up, prepared, unstable". Whatever appears as real in this world, is actually made and prepared by saṅkhāras. It is their insubstantial nature, their impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self nature, that is hinted at by these lines.
The term saṅkhāra is suggestive of some artificiality about this world. Everything that goes to 'make-it-up' is a saṅkhāra. The non-manifestative consciousness, which is aware of its impermanent nature, is therefore free from these preparations. It is free from those concepts which the worldlings cling to. It remains unshaken by their ghostly transfigurations. We come across four wonderful verses in the Adhimutta Theragāthā which, though extremely simple, give us a deep insight into this freedom in the arahant's mind.
The story of Venerable Adhimutta is a marvellous one. While going through a forest Venerable Adhimutta got caught to a band of robbers, who were just getting ready to offer a human sacrifice to the gods. So they got hold of this arahant as their victim. But the latter showed no consternation. There was no fear or terror in his face. The bandit chief asked him why he is unmoved. Then the Venerable Adhimutta uttered a set of verses in reply. Out of them, we may quote the following four significant verses:
Natthi cetasikaṃ dukkhaṃ,
atikkantā bhayā sabbe,
"There is no mental pain
To one with no expectations, oh headman,
All fears have been transcended
By one whose fetters are extinct."
Na me hoti 'ahosin'ti,
'bhavissan'ti na hoti me,
tattha kā paridevanā?
"It does not occur to me 'I was',
Nor does it occur to me 'I will be',
Mere preparations get destroyed,
What is there to lament?"
na bhayaṃ hoti gāmani.
"To one who sees as it is,
The arising of pure dhammas
And the sequence of pure preparations,
There is no fear, oh headman."
yadā pa˝˝āya passati,
mamattaṃ so asaṃvindaṃ,
'natthi me'ti na socati.
"When one sees with wisdom,
This world as comparable to grass and twigs,
Not finding anything worthwhile holding on as mine,
One does not grieve: 'O! I have nothing!'"
At least a fraction of the gist of these four verses has already come up in some form or other in the sermons given so far. Now as for the first verse, addressed to the bandit chief, the first two lines say that there is no mental pain to one who has no expectations, cravings, or desire. The next two lines state that one whose fetters are destroyed has transcended fears.
To begin with, let us get at the meaning of this verse. Here it is said that there is no mental pain, natthi cetasikaṃ dukkhaṃ. In an earlier sermon based on the Cetanāsutta we happened to mention that for one who does not take body, word, and mind as real, there is no inward pleasure and pain, ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. The relevant quotation is:
Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā so kāyo na hoti, yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ ... sā vācā na hoti ... so mano na hoti ... khettaṃ taṃ na hoti, vatthum taṃ na hoti, āyatanaṃ taṃ na hoti, adhikaraṇaṃ taṃ na hoti, yaṃ paccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ.
With the complete fading away and cessation of ignorance, the arahant has no notion of a body. That is, he does not have a perception of a body, like that of a worldling, who takes it as such, due to his perception of the compact, ghanasa˝˝ā. Likewise that speech is not there, sā vācā na hoti. The basic reason for speech-preparation is the reality attributed to words and linguistic usages. When, for instance, someone scolds us, we are displeased at it because of the reality given to those words. Similarly, that mind is not there, so mano na hoti. It is only the collocation of preparations which arise and cease that is conceived as 'my mind'.
Therefore, whatever field, site, base or reason, owing to which there can arise inward pleasure or pain, is no longer there. If the bandits had actually killed him, he would not have had any mental pain, because he lets go before Māra comes to grab. This is the idea expressed in the first verse.
As for the second verse, there too the idea of voidness is well expressed. The thought 'I was', does not occur to me. The idea 'I am' is not in me. Nor do I entertain the idea 'I will be'. That is to say, it does not occur to me that I had a past or that I will have a future. It only occurs to me that preparations get destroyed. That was what happened in the past and will happen in the future. So what is there to lament?
A very important idea emerges from these verses. Now this series of sermons is on the subject of Nibbāna. We thought of giving these sermons because of the existing variety of conflicting views on Nibbāna. There is no clear idea even about our goal, not only among non-Buddhists, but even among Buddhists themselves. From these verses we can glean some important facts. Here the reference is to existence. This arahant must have had numerous births as pretas, Brahmas, gods, and human beings. But he is not saying something false here. What is really meant by saying that it does not occur to me 'I was'?
Ordinary worldlings, or even those with higher psychic powers, when they see their past lives think of it as 'I was so and so in such and such a birth'. Sometimes one entertains a conceit at the thought 'I was a god', 'I was a Brahma'. If he had been an animal or a preta, he is somewhat displeased. Such is not the case with this arahant. He sees that what was in the past is a mere heap of preparations, and what will be in the future is again a heap of preparations. It is like the case of that cinema goer who understands that whatever comes up in the film is artificially got up. It is a state of mind aroused by wisdom. 'So what is there to lament', is the attitude resulting from it.
On an earlier occasion, we happened to compare these preparations to a heap of windings and unwindings in existence. Now as to this process of winding and unwinding, we may take as an illustration the case of a rope. There is a winding and an unwinding in it. We can form an idea about the nature of this existence even with the help of a simple illustration.
Nibbāna has been defined as the cessation of existence. The Buddha says that when he is preaching about the cessation of existence, some people, particularly the brahmins who cling to a soul theory, bring up the charge of nihilism against him. Not only those brahmins and heretics believing in a soul theory, but even some Buddhist scholars are scared of the term bhavanirodha, fearing that it leads to a nihilistic interpretation of Nibbāna. That is why they try to mystify Nibbāna in various ways. What is the secret behind this attitude? It is simply the lack of a clear understanding of the unique philosophy made known by the Buddha.
Before the advent of the Buddha, the world conceived of existence in terms of a perdurable essence as 'being', sat. So the idea of destroying that essence of being was regarded as annihilationism. It was some state of a soul conceived as 'I' and 'mine'. But according to the law of dependent arising made known by the Buddha, existence is something that depends on grasping, upādānapaccayā bhavo. It is due to grasping that there comes to be an existence. This is the pivotal point in this teaching.
In the case of the footstool, referred to earlier, it became a footstool when it was used as such. If in the next act it is used to sit on, it becomes a stool. When it serves as a table, it becomes a table. Similarly in a drama, the same piece of wood, which in one act serves as a walking stick to lean on, could be seized as a stick to beat with, in the next act.
In the same way, there is no essential thing-hood in the things taken as real by the world. They appear as things due to cravings, conceits and views. They are conditioned by the mind, but these psychological causes are ignored by the world, once concepts and designations are superimposed on them. Then they are treated as real objects and made amenable to grammar and syntax, so as to entertain such conceits and imaginings as, for instance, 'in the chair', 'on the chair', 'chair is mine', and so on.
Such a tendency is not there in the released mind of the arahant. He has understood the fact that existence is due to grasping, upādānapaccayā bhavo. Generally, in the explanation of the law of dependent arising, the statement 'dependent on grasping, becoming' is supposed to imply that one's next life is due to one's grasping in this life. But this becoming is something that goes on from moment to moment. Now, for instance, what I am now holding in my hand has become a fan because I am using it as a fan. Even if it is made out of some other material, it will still be called a fan. But if it were used for some other purpose, it could become something else. This way we can understand how existence is dependent on grasping.
We began our discussion with the statement that existence is a heap of windings and unwindings. Let us now think of a simple illustration. Suppose a rope or a cord is being made up by winding some strands from either end by two persons. For the strands to gather the necessary tension, the two persons have to go on winding in opposite directions. But for the sake of an illustration, let us imagine a situation in which a third person catches hold of the strands in the middle, just before the other two start their winding. Oddly enough, by mistake, those two start winding in the same direction. Both are unaware of the fact that their winding is at the same time an unwinding. The one in the middle, too, is ignorant that it is his tight grasp in the middle which is the cause of stress and tension.
To all appearance, a cord is being made up which may be taken as two cords on either side of the one who has his hold on the middle. However, viewed from a distance, for all practical purposes it is just one cord that is being winded up.
To introduce a note of discord into this picture, let us suppose that the man in the middle suddenly lets go of his hold with a 'twang'. Now what happens to the cord? The windings in the same direction from both ends, which made it a cord, immediately get neutralized and the cord ceases to be a cord! Something like the stilling of all preparations and the abandonment of all assets happens at that moment. One realizes, 'as-it-is', that no real cord existed at all.
The same state of affairs prevails in this world. The impermanence of this world, according to the Buddha, does not affect us so long as there is no grasping on our part. All windings in this world get unwinded immediately. This is the nature of the world. This is what is meant by udayabbaya, or rise and fall.
Now what happens if there is no grasping in the middle while the winding is going on in the same direction from both ends? No cord at all is made up, even if the two at either end go on winding for aeons and aeons. Why? Simply because they are winding in the same direction.
It is the same in the case of the world. The impermanence we see around us in this world does not affect us by itself. We are affected only when we grasp. It is the grasp in the middle that accounts for the cord, or rather, for whatever has the semblance of a cord. In fact, this is what the worldlings call 'the world'. This is what they take as real. Now what is the consequence of taking it to be real? If it is real and permanent, whatever is contrary to it, is annihilation, the destruction of a real world.
Keeping in mind the meaning of the Buddha's dictum 'dependent on grasping is existence', upādānapaccayā bhavo, if one cares to reflect on this little illustration, one would realize that there is actually nothing real to get destroyed. There is no self or soul at all to get destroyed.
As a matter of fact, the impermanence of the world is a process of momentary arisings and ceasings. Given the grasping in the middle, that is to say, 'dependent on grasping is becoming', the other links follow suit, namely 'dependent on becoming, birth; dependent on birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair arise', bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā sambhavanti.
It is somewhat like the unpleasant tension caused by the winding, in the person who has a grasp at the middle. We have already referred to a short aphorism which sums up the content of the insight of those who realize the fruits of the path, like that of a stream-winner, namely, yaṃ ki˝ci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammaṃ, "whatever is of a nature to arise, all that is of a nature to cease".
It does not seem to say anything significant, on the face of it. But it succinctly expresses the plainest conviction a stream-winner gets of the innocent process of arising and ceasing in the world. It is as if the one who had his grasp in the middle lets go of his hold for a while, through the power of the path moment.
It is in the nature of the ordinary worldling to hold on, and to hang on. That is why the man who grasped the cord in the middle refuses to let go of his hold in the midst of windings and unwindings, however much hardship he has to undergo in terms of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. For him, it is extremely difficult to let go. Until a Buddha arises in the world and proclaims the Dhamma, the world stubbornly refuses to let go.
Now if one gives up the tendency to grasp, at least for a short while by developing the noble eightfold path at its supramundane level, and lets go even for one moment, then one understands as one grasps again that now there is less stress and tension. Personality view, doubt and dogmatic adherence to rules and observances, sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlabbataparāmāsa, are gone. An unwinding has occurred to some extent. The strands of the cord are less taut now.
One also understands, at the moment of arising from that supramundane experience, that one comes back to 'existence' because of grasping, because of the tendency to hold on. That this tendency to hold on persists due to influxes and latencies - due to unabandoned defilements - is also evident to him. This, in effect, is the immediate understanding of the law of dependent arising. It seems, then, that we have here in this simile of the cord, a clue to an understanding of the nature of this existence.
Worldlings in general, whether they call themselves Buddhist or non-Buddhist, conceive of existence in terms of a perdurable essence as 'being', somewhat along the lines of the view of heretics. Nibbāna is something that drives terror into the worldlings, so long as there is no purification of view. The cessation of existence is much dreaded by them.
Even the commentators, when they get down to defining Nibbāna, give a wrong interpretation of the word dhuva. They sometimes make use of the word sassata in defining Nibbāna. This is a word that should never be brought in to explain the term Nibbāna. According to them, Nibbāna is a permanent and eternal state. Only, you must not ask us, what precisely it is. For, if we are more articulate, we would be betraying our proximity to such views as Brahmanirvāna.
What is the secret behind this anomalous situation? It is the difficulty in interpreting the term dhuva, which the Buddha uses as a synonym for Nibbāna. The true significance of this synonym has not been understood. It means stable or immovable. Of course, we do come across this term in such contexts as niccaṃ, dhuvaṃ, sassataṃ, acavanadhammaṃ, "permanent, stable, eternal, not liable to passing away", when Brahma gives expression to his conceit of eternal existence. But that is because these terms are more or less related to each other in sense.
Then, in which sense is Nibbāna called dhuva? In the sense that the experience of Nibbāna is irreversible. That is why it is referred to as acalaṃ sukhaṃ, "unshakeable bliss". The term akuppā cetovimutti, "unshakeable deliverance of the mind", expresses the same idea. Sometimes the Buddha refers to Nibbāna as akuppā cetovimutti. All other such deliverances are shakeable, or irritable. As the expression kuppapaṭicca santi, "peace dependent on irritability", implies, they are irritable and shakeable.
Even if they are unshaken during one's life time, they get shaken up at death. The final winning post is the pain of death. That is the critical moment at which one can judge one's own victory or defeat. Before the pain of death, all other deliverances of the mind fall back defeated. But this deliverance, this unshakeable deliverance with its 'let go' strategy at the approach of death, gets never shaken. It is unshakeable. That is why it is called the bliss unshaken, acalaṃ sukhaṃ. That is why it is called stable, dhuvaṃ. It seems, then, that some of the terms used by the Buddha as epithets or synonyms of Nibbāna have not been correctly understood.
Sometimes the Buddha employs words, used by heretics, in a different sense. In fact, there are many such instances. Now, if one interprets such instances in the same sense as heretics use those words, it will amount to a distortion of the Dhamma. Here, too, we have such an instance. Unfortunately the commentators have used the term sassata to define Nibbāna, taking it to be something eternal.
The main reason behind this is the misconception regarding existence - that there is an existence in truth and fact. There is this term asmimāna, which implies that there is the conceit 'am' in this world. All other religious teachers were concerned with the salvation of a real 'I'. Or, in other words, to confer immortality on this 'I'. The Buddha, on the contrary, declared that what actually 'is' there, is a conceit - the conceit 'am'. All what is necessary is the dispelling of this conceit. That is why we sometimes come across such references to Nibbāna as sammā mānābhisamayā antam akāsi dukkhassa, "by rightly understanding conceit, he made an end of suffering", or asmimānasamugghātaṃ pāpuṇāti diṭṭheva dhamme Nibbānaṃ, "one arrives at the eradication of the conceit 'am' which in itself is the attainment of Nibbāna here and now".
Some seem to think that the eradication of the conceit 'am' is one thing, and Nibbāna another. But along with the eradication of the conceit 'am', comes extinction. Why? Because one has been winding all this time imagining this to be a real cord or rope. One remains ignorant of the true state of affairs, due to one's grasp in the middle. But the moment one lets go, one understands.
It is the insight into this secret that serves as the criterion in designating the ariyan according to the number of births he has yet to take in saṃsāra. Thus, the stream-winner is called sattakkhattuparamo, 'seven-times-at-the-most'. With the sudden unwinding, which reduces the tension, one understands the secret that the noble eightfold path is the way to unwinding.
One hangs on, because one is afraid to let go. One thinks that to let go is to get destroyed. The Buddha declares that the heaviness of one's burden is due to one's grasping. What accounts for its weight is the very tenacity with which one clings to it. This the worldlings do not understand. So they cling on to the rope, for fear of getting destroyed. But if one lets go of one's hold, even for a moment, one would see that the tensed strands will get relaxed at least for that moment - that there is an immediate unwinding. Full understanding of that unwinding will come when one 'lets-go' completely. Then all influxes and latencies are destroyed.
So this little verse gives us a deep insight into the problem. What is there to lament? Because there are no notions like 'I was' or 'I am'. There is only a destruction of preparations.
The term vibhava is used in this context in a different sense. It refers here to the destruction of preparations. When using the two terms bhava and vibhava, some conceive of bhava, or existence, as a real perdurable essence, like a soul, and vibhava as its destruction. But here the word vibhava, in vibhavissanti, refers to the destructions of preparations. There is nothing lamentable about it. In the context of a drama, they are the paraphernalia improvised to stage an act, like the stool and the footstool. When one comes to think of individuals, they are no better than a multitude of puppets manipulated by fetters of existence in accordance with karma.
Even in the delivering of this sermon, there is a trace of a puppet show. The sermon is inspired by the audience. If there is no audience, there is no sermon. We are all enacting a drama. Though for us, this particular act of the drama is so important, there might be similar dramatic acts a few meters away from here in the jungle. A swarm of black ants might be busily hauling away an earthworm reeling in pain. That is one act in their own drama of life. All our activities are like that.
It is our unawareness of this framework that constitutes ignorance. If at any time one sees this framework of ignorance, free from influxes and latencies, one gets an unobstructed vision of the world. It is as if the doors of the cinema hall are suddenly flung open. The scene on the screen fades away completely then and there, as we have described above. Let us now come to the third verse.
na bhayaṃ hoti gāmani.
"To one who sees the arising of pure phenomena and the sequence of pure preparations as it is, there is no fear, oh headman". This verse, too, has a depth of meaning, which we shall now try to elucidate.
Why are the phenomena qualified by the word pure, suddha dhamma, in this context? Because the mind-objects, which are generally regarded as dhamma by the world, are impure. Why are they impure? Because they are 'influenced' by influxes. Now here we have 'uninfluenced' or influx-free phenomena. To the arahant's mind the objects of the world occur free of influxes. That is to say, they do not go to build up a prepared, saṅkhata. They are quasi-preparations. They do not go to build up a film show.
If, for instance, one who is seeing a film show, has the full awareness of the artificiality of those library-shots which go to depict a tragic scene on the screen, without being carried away by the latency to ignorance, one will not be able to 'enjoy' the film show. In fact, the film show does not exist for him. The film show has 'ceased' for him.
Similarly, the arahant sees phenomena as pure phenomena. Those mind-objects arise only to cease, that is all. They are merely a series of preparations, suddhaṃ saṅkhārasantatiṃ. 'The film reel is just being played' - that is the way it occurs to him. Therefore, "to one who sees all this, there is no fear, oh headman".
Let us try to give an illustration for this, too, by way of an analogy. As we know, when a sewing machine goes into action, it sews up two folds of cloth together. But supposing suddenly the shuttle runs out of its load of cotton. What happens then? One might even mistake the folds to be actually sewn up, until one discovers that they are separable. This is because the conditions for a perfect stitch are lacking. For a perfect stitch, the shuttle has to hasten and put a knot every time the needle goes down.
Now, for the arahant, the shuttle refuses to put in the knot. For him, preparations, or saṅkhāras, are ineffective in producing a prepared, or saṅkhata. He has no cravings, conceits and views. For knots of existence to occur, there has to be an attachment in the form of craving, a loop in the form of conceit, and a tightening in the form of views. So, then, the arahant's mind works like a sewing machine with the shuttle run out of its load of cotton. Though referred to as 'functional consciousness', its function is not to build up a prepared, since it is influx-free. The phenomena merely come up to go down, just like the needle.
Why is ignorance given as the first link in the formula of dependent arising? It is because the entire series is dependent on ignorance. It is not a temporal sequence. It does not involve time. That is why the Dhamma is called timeless, akālika. It is the stereotype interpretation of the formula of dependent arising in terms of three lives that has undermined the immediate and timeless quality of the Dhamma. Since ignorance is the root cause of all other conditions, inclusive of becoming, bhava, birth, jāti, and decay-and-death, jarāmaraṇaṃ, that state of affairs immediately ceases with the cessation of ignorance. This, then, is the reason for the last line, na bhayaṃ hoti gāmani, "there is no fear, oh headman".
Deathlessness, amata, means the absence of the fear of death. The fear that the world has about death is something obsessional. It is like the obsessional dread aroused by the sight of an anthill due to its association with a cobra.
As a matter of fact, this body has been compared to an anthill in the Vammikasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya. This bodily frame, made up of the four elements, procreated by parents and built up with food and drink, is metaphorically conceived as an anthill. The discourse says: "Take the knife, oh wise one, and dig in." The world has the obsession that there is a real cobra of a self inside this anthill. But once it is dug up, what does one find? One discovers an arahant, who has realized selflessness, a selfless cobra, worthy of honour. Of course, this might sound as a post-script on Vammikasutta, but the metaphor is so pregnant with meaning, that it can well accommodate this interpretation, too.
The world has a 'perception-of-the-compact', ghanasa˝˝ā, with regard to this body made up of the four elements. Because of that very perception or notion of compactness, there is a fear of death.
There is birth, because there is existence. Now this might, on analysis, give us an insight into the law of dependent arising. The term jāti, or birth, generally calls to mind the form of a child coming out of the mother's womb. But in this context the Buddha uses the term in relation to bhava, or existence, which in its turn is related to upādāna, or grasping. It is at the time we use something as a footstool that a footstool is 'born'. When it has ceased to serve that purpose, the footstool is 'dead'.
It is in this sense that all assets, upadhi, are said to be of a nature to be born, jātidhammā hete, bhikkhave, upadhayo, "all these assets, monks, are of the nature to be born". Not only the animate objects, like wife and children, men and women slaves, etc., but even gold and silver are mentioned there as of a nature to be born. Now let us ponder over this statement. How can gold and silver be born? How can they grow old? They are born because of craving, conceit and views. They come into existence. They are born. Because of birth, they grow old. Therefore they become objects for sorrow, lamentation and the like to arise.
For one who looks upon them as pure preparations, all those objects do not crystallize into 'things'. The description of the non-manifestative consciousness in the Brahmanimantanikasutta looks like a riddle in the form of a jumble of negative terms like paṭhaviṃ nāhosim, paṭhaviyā nāhosiṃ, paṭhavito nāhosiṃ, (etc.), "I did not claim to be earth, I did not claim to be in earth, I did not claim to be from earth".
But what is the general idea conveyed by these expressions? The implication is that the arahant looks upon all those concepts, which the worldlings make use of to make up an existence and to assert the reality of this drama of existence, as mere pretensions. He is convinced of their vanity and insubstantiality. As we have already explained with the simile of the sewing machine, an existence does not get stitched up or knitted up. The cessation of existence is experienced then and there.
Some seem to think that the arahant experiences the Nibbānic bliss only after his death. But the cessation of existence is experienced here and now, diṭṭheva dhamme. This is something marvellous and unknown to any other religious system. It is just at the moment that the shuttle of the sewing machine runs out of its load of cotton that the cessation of existence is experienced. It is then that the latencies are uprooted and all influxes are destroyed. Cravings, conceits and views refuse to play their part, with the result that mere preparations come up and go down. This is the ambrosial deathless. It is said that the arahants partake of ambrosial deathlessness, amataṃ paribhu˝janti.
What actually happened in the case of the Venerable arahant Adhimutta was that the bandit chief understood the Dhamma and set him free, instead of killing him, and even got ordained under him. But even if he had killed him, Venerable Adhimutta would have passed away, experiencing the ambrosial deathless. Why? Because he can let go before Māra comes to grab. He is, therefore, fearless. The obsessional fear of death common to worldlings has vanished. This, then, is the ambrosia. It is not some medicine or delicious drink for the possession of which gods and demons battle with each other. It is that bliss of deliverance, the freedom from the fear of death. Needless to say that it requires no seal of ever-lastingness.
As we once pointed out, in tune with the two lines of the following canonical verse, kiṃ kayirā udapānena, āpā ce sabbadā siyuṃ, "what is the use of a well, if water is there all the time?", once the thirst is quenched forever, why should one go in search of a well? Let us now take up the next verse.
yadā pa˝˝āya passati,
mamattaṃ so asaṃvindaṃ,
'natthi me'ti na socati.
Now all these verses are eloquent expressions of voidness, su˝˝atā. When one sees with wisdom the entire world, that is both the internal and external world, as comparable to grass and twigs in point of worthlessness, one does not entertain the conceit 'mine' and therefore does not lament, saying: 'Oh, I have nothing'. One is not scared of the term bhavanirodha, or cessation of existence. Why? Because all these are worthless things.
Here too, we may add something more by way of explanation, that is as to how things become 'things' in this world - though this may seem obvious enough. Since we have been so concerned with dramas, let us take up a dramatic situation from the world.
A man is hastily walking along a jungle path. Suddenly his foot strikes against a stone. 'Oh, it is so painful!' He kicks the stone with a curse. A few more steps, and another stone trips him. This time it is even more painful. He turns round, quietly, picks up the stone, cleans it carefully, looking around, wraps it up in his handkerchief and slips it into his pocket. Both were stones. But why this special treatment? The first one was a mere pebble, but the second one turned out to be a gem!
The world esteems a gem stone as valuable because of craving, conceits and views. So the first accident was a mishap, but the second - a stroke of luck. Now, had all these mishaps and haps been filmed, it would have become something of a comedy. Everything in our environment, even our precious possessions like gold, silver, pearls, and gems, appear like the paraphernalia improvised for a dramatic performance on the world stage. Once they come on the stage, from backstage, they appear as real things. Not only do they appear as real, relative to the acts of the drama, but they get deposited in our minds as such.
It is such 'deposits' that become our aggregates of grasping, or 'assets', which we take along with us in this saṃsāra in the form of likes and dislikes. Loves and hates contracted in the past largely decide our behaviour in the present with some sort of subconscious acquiescence, so much so that we often form attachments and revengeful aversions in accordance with them. When one comes to think of it, there is something dramatic about it. When something serves as a footstool in a particular act, it is 'really' a footstool. When it is improvised to serve as some other thing in the next act, one is unaware of the fact that it is the same object. One is not aware of the hoodwink involved in it. Such a state of affairs prevails over the nature of preparations, saṅkhāras.
Being ignorant of the fact that these are purely preparations, the worldlings take concepts too seriously, to come to conclusions such as 'I was so and so in such and such a birth', thereby clinging on to all the animate and inanimate objects in the world. They are actually comparable to things temporarily improvised to depict a particular scene in a drama or a film show. That is why we compared the four elements to ghosts. Deluded by their ghostly transfigurations, the worldlings create for themselves a perception of form. The verse in question gives us an insight into this particular aspect of the drama of existence.
A meditator can get at least an inkling of the emptiness and insubstantiality of this drama of existence, when he trains himself in keeping the four postures with mindfulness and full awareness. By practising it, he gets an opportunity to witness a monodrama, free of charge. And this is the drama: When walking, he understands: 'I am walking'; when standing, he understands: 'I am standing'; when sitting, he understands: 'I am sitting'; when lying down, he understands: 'I am lying down'. While keeping one's postures in this manner, one sees in outline one's own form as if one were acting in a monodrama.
When the basis of the factors of the form group is removed, those in the name group are reduced to purposeless activations. Earth, water, fire and air constitute the basis of form. When a meditator becomes dispassionate with regard to these four elements, when they begin to fade away for him, the factors in the name group assume a ghostly character. He feels as if he is performing a drama with non-existing objects. He opens a non-existing door, sits on a non-existing chair, and so on.
Now if we try to understand this in terms of an analogy of a drama, as we have been doing throughout, we may compare it to a mime or a dumb show. In a dumb show, one might see such acts as follows: An actor rides a no-bike, climbs a no-hill, meets a no-friend and has a no-chat with him. Or else he may sit on a no-chair by a no-table and writes a no-letter with a no-pen. What we mean by the no-nos here is the fact that on the stage there is neither a bicycle, nor a hill, nor another person, nor any other object like a chair, a table or a pen. All these are merely suggested by his acting. This kind of dumb show has a comic effect on the audience.
An insight meditator, too, goes through a similar experience when he contemplates on name-and-form, seeing the four elements as empty and void of essence, which will give him at least an iota of the conviction that this drama of existence is empty and insubstantial. He will realize that, as in the case of the dumb show, he is involved with things that do not really exist. This amounts to an understanding that the factors of the name group are dependent on the form group, and vice versa.
Seeing the reciprocal relationship between name-and-form, he is disinclined to dabble in concepts or gulp down a dose of prescriptions. If form is dependent on name, and name is dependent on form, both are void of essence. What is essential here, is the very understanding of essencelessness. If one sits down to draw up lists of concepts and prescribe them, it would only lead to a mental constipation. Instead of release there will be entanglement. Such a predicament is not unlikely.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
This is the ninth sermon in the series of sermons given on the topic of Nibbāna. In our last sermon we discussed, to some extent, how the insubstantiality and the vanity of the comic acts enacted by saṃsāric beings in this drama of existence gradually become clear to a meditator as he keeps his postures according to the Satipaṭṭhānasutta. We mentioned how the fact that name is only a shadow of form is revealed to the meditator when he is attending to his postures seeing the elements constituting the basis of form as empty.
By way of analogy we brought in the simile of a mime or a dumb show. What characterizes that kind of drama is the comic nature of the acts which depict scenes suggestive of animate or inanimate objects not actually present on the stage. A meditator becomes aware, while attending to his postures, that he is merely enacting a dumb show. He comes to understand how far name is dependent on form, and the four elements appear to him as empty.
In the Satipaṭṭhānasutta we find the following instruction in regard to the keeping of postures: Yathā yathā vā pan'assa kāyo paṇihito hoti tathā tathā naṃ pajānāti, "in whatever way his body is disposed, so he understands it". This is suggestive of the attempt of a spectator to understand the mimicry of an actor or an actress in a pantomime. While attending to one's postures one feels as if one is watching a one-man dumb show. One gets an opportunity to watch it even more keenly when one comes to the section on full awareness, sampaja˝˝apabba, dealing with the minor postures, khuddaka iriyāpatha.
The worldlings are in the habit of creating material objects in accordance with the factors on the name side in an extremely subtle manner, by grasping the four elements under the influence of the personality view, sakkāyadiṭṭhi. The material objects around us are recognized as such by grasping the four elements. The definition of the form aspect in name-and-form points to such a conclusion: cattāro ca mahābhūtā catunna˝ca mahābhūtānaṃ upādāya rūpaṃ, "the four great primaries and form dependent on those four primaries".
The word upādāya in this context has a special connotation of relativity. So in this way, material objects are created with the help of factors in the name group. This reveals a certain principle of relativity. In this relativity one sees the emptiness of both name and form. This same principle of relativity is implicit in some other statements of the Buddha, but they are rather neglected for a lack of recognition of their significance. We come across such a discourse with a high degree of importance in the Saḷāyatanavagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. There the Buddha states that principle of relativity with the help of an illustration:
Hatthesu, bhikkhave, sati ādānanikkhepanaṃ pa˝˝āyati, pādesu sati abhikkamapaṭikkamo pa˝˝āyati, pabbesu sati sammi˝janapasāraṇaṃ pa˝˝āyati, kucchismiṃ sati jighacchā pipāsā pa˝˝āyati. "When there are hands, monks, a taking up and putting down is apparent; when there are feet, a going forward and coming back is apparent; when there are joints, a bending and stretching is apparent; when there is a belly, hunger and thirst is apparent."
Then the contrary of this situation is also given: Hatthesu, bhikkhave, asati ādānanikkhepanaṃ na pa˝˝āyati, pādesu asati abhikkamapaṭikkamo na pa˝˝āyati, pabbesu asati sammi˝janapasāraṇaṃ na pa˝˝āyati, kucchismiṃ asati jighacchā pipāsā na pa˝˝āyati. "When there are no hands, a taking up and putting down is not apparent; when there are no feet, a going forward and coming back is not apparent; when there are no joints, a bending and stretching is not apparent; when there is no belly, hunger and thirst are not apparent." What is implied by all this is that basic principle of relativity.
Some meditators, engaged in satipaṭṭhāna meditation, might think that materiality does not really exist and only mentality is there. In other words, there are no hands, only a taking up and putting down is there. There are no feet, only a going and coming is there. That way, they might dogmatically take the bare activity as real and subject it to an analysis. But what is important here is the understanding of the relativity between the two, which reveals the emptiness of both. If, on the other hand, one of them is taken too seriously as real, it ends up in a dogmatic standpoint. It will not lead to a deeper understanding of the emptiness of name and form.
Now in the case of a pantomime, as already mentioned, a spectator has to imagine persons and things not found on the stage as if they are present, in order to make sense out of an act. Here too we have a similar situation. Name and form exist in relation to each other. What one sees through this interrelation is the emptiness or insubstantiality of both.
We brought up all these analogies of dramas and film shows just to give an idea of the impermanence of saṅkhāras, or preparations. In fact, the term saṅkhāra, is very apt in the context of dramas and film shows. It is suggestive of a pretence sustained with some sort of effort. It clearly brings out their false and unreal nature.
The purpose of the perception of impermanence, with regard to this drama of existence, is the dispelling of the perception of permanence about the things that go to make up the drama. With the dispelling of the perception of permanence, the tendency to grasp a sign or catch a theme is removed. It is due to the perception of permanence that one grasps a sign in accordance with perceptual data. When one neither takes a sign nor gets carried away by its details, there is no aspiration, expectation, or objective by way of craving. When there is no aspiration, one cannot see any purpose or essence to aim at.
It is through the three deliverances, the signless, the desireless, and the void, that the drama of existence comes to an end. The perception of impermanence is the main contributory factor for the cessation of this drama. Some of the discourses of the Buddha, concerning the destruction of the world, can be cited as object lessons in the development of the perception of impermanence leading to the signless deliverance.
For instance, in the discourse on the appearance of the seven suns, Sattasuriyasutta, mentioned earlier, this world system, which is so full of valuable things like the seven kinds of jewels, gets fully consumed in a holocaust leaving not even a trace of ash or soot, as if some ghee or oil has been burned up. The perception of impermanence, arising out of this description, automatically leads to an understanding of voidness.
If the conviction that not only the various actors and actresses on the world stage, but all the accompanying decorations get fully destroyed together with the stage itself at some point of time grips the mind with sufficient intensity to exhaust the influxes of sensuality, existence and ignorance, emancipation will occur then and there. That may be the reason why some attained arahant-hood immediately on listening to that sermon. That way, the perception of impermanence acts as an extremely powerful antidote for defilements.
Aniccasa˝˝ā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā bahulīkatā sabbaṃ kāmarāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ rūparāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ bhavarāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ avijjaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ asmimānaṃ pariyādiyati samūhanati. "Monks, the perception of impermanence, when developed and intensively practised, exhausts all attachments to sensuality, exhausts all attachments to form, exhausts all attachments to existence, exhausts all ignorance, exhausts all conceits of an 'am' and eradicates it completely."
This shows that the perception of impermanence gradually leads to an understanding of voidness, as is clearly stated in the following quotation: Aniccasa˝˝ino, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno anattasa˝˝ā sanṭhāti. Anattasa˝˝ī asmimānasamugghātaṃ pāpuṇāti diṭṭheva dhamme nibbānaṃ. "Monks, in one who has the perception of impermanence, the perception of not-self gets established. With the perception of not-self, he arrives at the destruction of the conceit 'am', which is extinction here and now".
Such an assessment of the importance of the perception of impermanence will enable us to make sense out of the seemingly contradictory statements in some of the verses in the Dhammapada, such as the following:
Puttā matthi dhanaṃ matthi,
iti bālo viha˝˝ati,
attā hi attano natthi,
kuto puttā kuto dhanaṃ?
"Sons I have, wealth I have,
So the fool is vexed,
Even oneself is not one's self,
Where then are sons, where is wealth?"
The perception of not-self at its highest, gives rise to the idea of voidness, as implied by the dictum su˝˝am idaṃ attena vā attaniyena vā, "this is empty of self or anything belonging to a self".
Some are afraid of this term su˝˝atā, emptiness, voidness, for various reasons. That is why we mentioned at the very outset, already in the first sermon, that gradually the monks themselves showed a lack of interest in those discourses that deal with the idea of voidness. The Buddha had already predicted, as a danger that will befall the Sāsana in the future, this lack of regard for such discourses. This prediction reveals the high degree of importance attached to them.
The last two sections of the Sutta Nipāta, namely Aṭṭhakavagga and Pārāyanavagga, abound in extremely deep sermons. In the Pārāyanavagga, for instance, we find the Brahmin youth Mogharāja putting the following question to the Buddha: Kathaṃ lokaṃ avekkhantaṃ, maccurājā na passati? "By looking upon the world in which manner can one escape the eye of the king of death?" The Buddha gives the answer in the following verse:
Su˝˝ato lokaṃ avekkhassu,
Mogharāja sadā sato,
evaṃ maccutaro siyā,
evaṃ lokam avekkhantaṃ,
maccurājā na passati.
"Look upon the world as void,
Mogharāja, being mindful at all times,
Uprooting the lingering view of self,
Get well beyond the range of death,
Him who thus looks upon the world,
The king of death gets no chance to see."
From this we can infer that the entire Dhamma, even like the world system itself, inclines towards voidness. This fact is borne out by the following significant quotation in the CūḷaTaṇhāsaṅkhayasutta, cited by Sakka as an aphorism given by the Buddha himself: Sabbe dhammā nālaṃ abhinivesāya. Though we may render it simply as "nothing is worth clinging on to", it has a deeper significance. The word abhinivesa is closely associated with the idea of entering into or getting entangled in views of one's own creation. The implication, then, is that not only the views as such, but nothing at all is worthwhile getting entangled in. This is suggestive of the emptiness of everything.
This brings us to a very important sutta among the Eighths of the Aṅguttara Nikāya, namely the Kiṃmūlakasutta. In this particular sutta we find the Buddha asking the monks how they would answer a set of questions which wandering ascetics of other sects might put to them. The questions are as follows:
Kiṃ mūlakā, āvuso, sabbe dhammā? Kiṃ sambhavā sabbe dhammā? Kiṃ samudayā sabbe dhammā? Kiṃ samosaraṇā sabbe dhammā? Kiṃ pamukhā sabbe dhammā? Kim adhipateyyā sabbe dhammā? Kim uttarā sabbe dhammā? Kiṃ sārā sabbe dhammā?  "What is the root of all things? What is the origin of all things? Where do all things arise? Towards what do all things converge? What is at the head of all things? What dominates all things? What is the point of transcendence of all things? What is the essence of all things?"
The monks confessed that they are unable to answer those questions on their own and begged the Buddha to instruct them. Then the Buddha gave the exact answer to each question in a cut and dried form, saying, "This is the way you should answer if wandering ascetics of other sects raise those questions".
Chandamūlakā, āvuso, sabbe dhammā, manasikārasambhavā sabbe dhammā, phassasamudayā sabbe dhammā, vedanāsamosaraṇā sabbe dhammā, samādhipamukhā sabbe dhammā, satādhipateyyā sabbe dhammā, pa˝˝uttarā sabbe dhammā, vimuttisārā sabbe dhammā. "Rooted in desire, friends, are all things. Born of attention are all things. Arisen from contact are all things. Converging on feeling are all things. Headed by concentration are all things. Dominated by mindfulness are all things. Surmountable by wisdom are all things. Yielding deliverance as essence are all things."
Before getting down to an analysis of the basic meaning of this discourse, it is worthwhile considering why the Buddha forestalled a possible perplexity among his disciples in the face of a barrage of questions likely to be levelled by other sectarians. Why did he think it fit to prepare the minds of the disciples well in advance of such a situation?
Contemporary ascetics of other sects, notably the brahmins, entertained various views regarding the origin and purpose of 'all things'. Those who subscribed to a soul theory, had different answers to questions concerning thing-hood or the essence of a thing. Presumably it was not easy for the monks, with their not-self standpoint, to answer those questions to the satisfaction of other sectarians. That is why those monks confessed their incompetence and begged for guidance.
It was easy for those of other sects to explain away the questions relating to the origin and purpose of things on the basis of their soul theory or divine creation. Everything came out of Brahma, and self is the essence of everything. No doubt, such answers were substantial enough to gain acceptance. Even modern philosophers are confronted with the intricate problem of determining the exact criterion of a 'thing'. What precisely accounts for the thing-hood of a thing? What makes it no-thing?
Unfortunately for the sutta, its traditional commentators seem to have ignored the deeper philosophical dimensions of the above questionnaire. They have narrowed down the meaning of the set of answers recommended by the Buddha by limiting its application to wholesome mental states. The occurrence of such terms as chanda, sati, samādhi and pa˝˝ā, had probably led them to believe that the entire questionnaire is on the subject of wholesome mental states. But this is a serious underestimation of the import of the entire discourse. It actually goes far deeper in laying bare a basic principle governing both skilful and unskilful mental states.
Now, for instance, the first two verses of the Dhammapada bring out a fundamental law of psychology applicable to things both skilful and unskilful: Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā. Both verses draw upon this fundamental principle. Nowadays, these two lines are variously interpreted, but the basic idea expressed is that "all things have mind as their forerunner, mind is their chief, and they are mind-made". This applies to both skilful and unskilful mental states.
Now the sutta in question has also to be interpreted in the same light, taking into account both these aspects. It must be mentioned, in particular, that with the passage of time a certain line of interpretation gained currency, according to which such terms as chanda were taken as skilful in an exclusive sense. For instance, the term sati, wherever and whenever it occurred, was taken to refer to sammā sati. Likewise, chanda came to be interpreted as kusalacchanda, desire or interest in the skilful, or kattukamyatāchanda, desire to perform.
But we have to reckon with a special trait in the Buddha's way of preaching. His sermons were designed to lead onward the listeners, gradually, according to their degree of understanding. Sometimes the meaning of a term, as it occurs at the end of a sermon, is different from the meaning it is supposed to have at the beginning of the sermon. Such a technique is also evident.
The term chanda is one that has both good and bad connotations. In such contexts as chandarāga and chandajaṃ aghaṃ, it is suggestive of craving as the cause of all suffering in this world. It refers to that attachment, rāga, which the world identifies with craving as such. But in the context chanda-iddhipāda, where the reference is to a particular base for success, it is reckoned as a skilful mental state. However, that is not a sufficient reason to regard it as something alien to the generic sense of the term.
There is an important sutta, which clearly reveals this fact, in the Saṃyutta Nikāya. A brahmin named Uṇṇābha once came to Venerable Ānanda with a question that has a relevance to the significance of the term chanda. His question was: Kim atthiyaṃ nu kho, bho Ānanda, samaṇe Gotame brahmacariyaṃ vussati? "Sir Ānanda, what is the purpose for which the holy life is lived under the recluse Gotama?" Venerable Ānanda promptly gives the following answer: Chandappahānatthaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, bhagavati brahmacariyaṃ vussati. "Brahmin, it is for the abandonment of desire that the holy life is lived under the Exalted One." Then the brahmin asks: Atthi pana, bho Ānanda, maggo atthi paṭipadā etassa chandassa pahānāya? "Is there, sir Ānanda, a way or practice for the abandonment of this desire?" Venerable Ānanda says: "Yes". Now, what is the way he mentions in that context? It is none other than the four bases for success, iddhipāda, which are described as follows:
Chandasamādhipadhānasaṅkhārasamannāgataṃ iddhipādaṃ bhāveti, viriyasamādhipadhānasaṅkhārasamannāgataṃ iddhipādaṃ bhāveti, cittasamādhipadhānasaṅkhārasamannāgataṃ iddhipādaṃ bhāveti, vīmaṃsāsamādhipadhānasaṅkhārasamannāgataṃ iddhipādaṃ bhāveti. (1) "One develops the basis for success that has volitional preparations leading to a concentration through desire", (2) "one develops the basis for success that has volitional preparations leading to a concentration through energy", (3) "one develops the basis for success that has volitional preparations leading to a concentration by making up the mind", (4) "one develops the basis for success that has volitional preparations leading to a concentration through investigation".
Venerable Ānanda replies that the way of practice to be followed for the abandonment of desire is the above mentioned four bases pertaining to desire, energy, mind and investigation. The brahmin is puzzled at this reply. He thinks, if that is so, desire is not abandoned. It is still there. And he raises this objection to show that there is an implicit contradiction: Chandeneva chandaṃ pajahissatī'ti, netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati, "that one abandons desire by desire itself is an impossibility". Then the Venerable Ānanda brings out a simile to convince the brahmin of the implicit truth in his reply.
"What do you think, brahmin, is it not the case that you earlier had the desire 'I will go to the park', and after you came here, the appropriate desire subsided?" So this is the logic behind the statement concerning the abandonment of craving. The term chanda is used here in the first instance with reference to that type of craving for the purpose of the abandonment of craving.
Desire as a basis for success is developed for the very abandonment of desire. So there is no question about the use of the same word. Here, chanda as a base of success still belongs to the chanda-family. A desire should be there even for the abandonment of desire. This is a distinctive basic principle underlying the middle path.
Some have a great liking for the word chanda, but dislike the word taṇhā. So much so that, if one speaks of a craving for attaining Nibbāna, it might even be regarded as a blasphemy. In another sermon given by Venerable Ānanda himself, one addressed to a particular sick nun, we find the statement: Taṇhaṃ nissāya taṇhā pahātabbā, "depending on craving one should abandon craving". That again is suggestive of a special application of the middle path technique. But the kind of craving meant here is not something crude. It is specifically explained there that it is the longing arising in one for the attainment of arahant-hood on hearing that someone has already attained it. Of course, there is a subtle trace of craving even in that longing, but it is one that is helpful for the abandonment of craving. So one need not fight shy of the implications of these words.
As a matter of fact, even the word rati, attachment, is used with reference to Nibbāna. When, for instance, it is said that the disciple of the Buddha is attached to the destruction of craving, taṇhakkhayarato hoti sammāsambuddhasāvako, it may sound rather odd, because the word rati usually stands for lust. However, according to the Middle Path principle of utilizing one thing to eliminate another, words like chanda and taṇhā are used with discretion. Sometimes terms like nekkhamasita domanassa, unhappiness based on renunciation, are employed to indicate the desire for attaining Nibbāna. Therefore the statement chandamūlakā sabbe dhammā need not be interpreted as referring exclusively to skilful mental states.
With regard to the significance of sati and samādhi, too, we may mention in passing, that terms like micchā sati, wrong mindfulness, and micchā samādhi, wrong concentration, do sometimes occur in the discourses. So let us examine whether the set of statements under consideration has any sequential coherence or depth.
"Rooted in desire, friends, are all things." We might as well bring out the meaning of these statements with the help of an illustration. Supposing there is a heap of rubbish and someone approaches it with a basket to collect it and throw it away. Now, about the rubbish heap, he has just a unitary notion. That is to say, he takes it as just one heap of rubbish. But as he bends down and starts collecting it into the basket, he suddenly catches sight of a gem. Now the gem becomes the object of his desire and interest. A gem arose out of what earlier appeared as a rubbish heap. It became the thing for him, and desire was at the root of this phenomenon - true to the dictum "rooted in desire, friends, are all things".
Then what about origination through attention? It is through attention that the gem came into being. One might think that the origin of the gem should be traced to the mine or to some place where it took shape, but the Buddha traces its origin in accordance with the norm manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, "mind is the forerunner of all things". So then, the root is desire and the source of origin is attention, the very fact of attending.
Phassasamudayā sabbe dhammā, "all things arise from contact". There was eye-contact with the gem as something special out of all the things in the rubbish heap. So the gem 'arose' from eye-contact. Vedanāsamosaraṇā sabbe dhammā, "all things converge on feeling". As soon as the eye spotted the gem, a lot of pleasant feelings about it arose in the mind. Therefore, all things converge on feeling.
Samādhipamukhā sabbe dhammā, "headed by concentration are all things". Here, in this case, it may be wrong concentration, micchā samādhi, but all the same it is some kind of concentration. It is now a concentration on the gem. It is as if his meditation has shifted from the rubbish heap to the gem. Satādhipateyyā sabbe dhammā, "dominated by mindfulness are all things". As to this dominance, undistracted attention is necessary for the maintenance of that thing which has now been singled out. Where there is distraction, attention is drawn to other things as well. That is why mindfulness is said to be dominant. Be it the so-called wrong mindfulness, but nonetheless, it is now directed towards the gem.
Now comes the decisive stage, that is, the 'surmountability by wisdom', pa˝˝uttarā. Let us for a moment grant that somehow or other, even though wrongly, micchā, some kind of surrogate mindfulness and concentration has developed out of this situation. Now, if one wants to cross over in accordance with the Dhamma, that is, if one wants to attain Nibbāna with this gem itself as the topic of meditation, one has to follow the hint given by the statement pa˝˝uttarā sabbe dhammā, "surmountable by wisdom are all things".
What one has to do now is to see through the gem, to penetrate it, by viewing it as impermanent, fraught with suffering, and not-self, thereby arriving at the conviction that, after all, the gem belongs to the rubbish heap itself. The gem is transcended by the wisdom that it is just one item in this rubbish heap that is 'The world' in its entirety. If one wins to the wisdom that this gem is something like a piece of charcoal, to be destroyed in the holocaust at the end of a world period, one has transcended that gem.
So then, the essence of all things is not any self or soul, as postulated by the brahmins. Deliverance is the essence. In such discourses as the Mahāsāropamasutta, the essence of this entire Dhamma is said to be deliverance. The very emancipation from all this, to be rid of all this, is itself the essence. Some seem to think that the essence is a heaping up of concepts and clinging to them. But that is not the essence of this teaching. It is the ability to penetrate all concepts, thereby transcending them. The deliverance resulting from transcendence is itself the essence.
With the cessation of that concept of a gem as some special thing, a valuable thing, separate from the rest of the world, as well as of the ensuing heap of concepts by way of craving, conceit and views, the gem ceases to exist. That itself is the deliverance. It is the emancipation from the gem. Therefore, vimuttisārā sabbe dhammā, "deliverance is the essence of all things".
So then, we have here a very valuable discourse which can even be used as a topic of insight meditation. The essence of any mind object is the very emancipation from it, by seeing it with wisdom. Considered in this light, everything in the world is a meditation object. That is why we find very strange meditation topics mentioned in connection with the attainments of ancient arahant monks and nuns. Sometimes, even apparently unsuitable meditation objects have been successfully employed.
Meditation teachers, as a rule, do not approve of certain meditation objects for beginners, with good reasons. For instance, they would not recommend a female form as a meditation object for a male, and a male form for a female. That is because it can arouse lust, since it is mentioned in the Theragāthā that lust arose in some monk even on seeing a decayed female corpse in a cemetery. But in the same text one comes across an episode in connection with Venerable Nāgasamāla, which stands in utter contrast to it.
Venerable Nāgasamāla attained arahant-hood with the help of a potentially pernicious meditation object, as he describes it, in his words: "Once, on my begging round, I happened to look up to see a dancing woman, beautifully dressed and bedecked, dancing to the rhythm of an orchestra just on the middle of the highway." And, what happened then?
Tato me manasikāro,
tato cittaṃ vimucci me,
"Just then, radical attention
Arose from within me,
The perils were manifest,
And dejection took place,
Then my mind got released,
Behold the goodness of the Norm."
If one wishes to discover the goodness of this norm, one has to interpret the sutta in question in a broader perspective, without limiting its application to skilful mental states. If a train of thoughts had got started up about that gem, even through a wrong concentration, and thereby a wrong mindfulness and a wrong concentration had taken shape, at whatever moment radical attention comes on the scene, complete reorientation occurs instantaneously, true to those qualities of the Dhamma implied by the terms, sandiṭṭhika, visible here and now, akālika, not involving time, and ehipassika, inviting one to come and see.
Some might wonder, for instance, how those brahmins of old who had practiced their own methods of concentration, attained arahant-hood on hearing just one stanza as soon as they came to the Buddha. The usual interpretation is that it is due to the miraculous powers of the Buddha, or else that the persons concerned had an extraordinary stock of merit. The miracle of the Dhamma, implicit in such occurrences, is often ignored.
Now as to this miracle of the Dhamma, we may take the case of someone keen on seeing a rainbow. He will have to go on looking at the sky indefinitely, waiting for a rainbow to appear. But if he is wise enough, he can see the spectrum of rainbow colours through a dewdrop hanging on a leaf of a creeper waving in the morning sun, provided he finds the correct perspective. For him, the dewdrop itself is the meditation object. In the same way, one can sometimes see the entire Dhamma, thirty-seven factors of enlightenment and the like, even in a potentially pernicious meditation object.
From an academic point of view, the two terms yoniso manasikāra, radical attention, and ayoniso manasikāra, non-radical attention, are in utter contrast to each other. There is a world of difference between them. So also between the terms sammā diṭṭhi, right view, and micchā diṭṭhi, wrong view. But from the point of view of realization, there is just a little difference.
Now as we know, that spectrum of the sun's rays in the dewdrop disappears with a very little shift in one's perspective. It appears only when viewed in a particular perspective. What we find in this Dhamma is something similar. This is the intrinsic nature of this Dhamma that is to be seen here and now, timeless, leading onward, and realizable by the wise each one by himself.
Our interpretation of this sutta, taking the word sabbe dhammā to mean 'all things', is further substantiated by the Samiddhi Sutta found in the section on the Nines in the Aṅguttara Nikāya. It is a discourse preached by Venerable Sāriputta. To a great extent, it runs parallel to the one we have already analysed. The difference lies only in a few details. In that sutta we find Venerable Samiddhi answering the questions put to him by Venerable Sāriputta, like a pupil at a catechism. The following is the gist of questions raised and answers given:
'Kim ārammaṇā, Samiddhi, purisassa saṅkappavitakkā uppajjantī'ti? - 'Nāmarūpārammaṇā, bhante.'
'Te pana, Samiddhi, kva nānattaṃ gacchantī'ti? - 'Dhātūsu, bhante.'
'Te pana, Samiddhi, kiṃ samudayā'ti? - 'Phassasamudayā, bhante.'
'Te pana, Samiddhi, kiṃ samosaraṇā'ti? - 'Vedanāsamosaraṇā, bhante. '
'Te pana, Samiddhi, kiṃ pamukhā'ti? - 'Samādhipamukhā, bhante.'
'Te pana, Samiddhi, kim adhipateyyā'ti? - 'Satādhipateyyā, bhante.'
'Te pana, Samiddhi, kim uttarā'ti? - 'Pa˝˝uttarā, bhante.'
'Te pana, Samiddhi kiṃ sārā'ti? - 'Vimuttisārā, bhante.'
'Te pana, Samiddhi, kim ogadhā'ti? - 'Amatogadhā, bhante.'
Except for the first two questions and the last one, the rest is the same as in the questionnaire given by the Buddha. But from this catechism it is extremely clear that Venerable Sāriputta is asking about thoughts and concepts. In the case of the previous sutta, one could sometimes doubt whether the word sabbe dhammā referred to skilful or unskilful mental states. But here it is clear enough that Venerable Sāriputta's questions are on thoughts and concepts. Let us now try to translate the above catechism.
"With what as object, Samiddhi, do concepts and thoughts arise in a man?" - "With name-and-form as object, venerable sir."
"But where, Samiddhi, do they assume diversity?" - "In the elements, venerable sir."
"But from what, Samiddhi, do they arise?" - "They arise from contact, venerable sir."
"But on what, Samiddhi, do they converge?" - "They converge on feeling, venerable sir."
"But what, Samiddhi, is at their head?" - "They are headed by concentration, venerable sir."
"But by what, Samiddhi, are they dominated?" - "They are dominated by mindfulness, venerable sir."
"But what, Samiddhi, is their highest point?" - "Wisdom is their highest point, venerable sir."
"But what, Samiddhi, is their essence?" - "Deliverance is their essence, venerable sir."
"But in what, Samiddhi, do they get merged?" - "They get merged in the deathless, venerable sir."
Some noteworthy points emerge from this catechism. All concepts and thoughts have name-and-form as their object. The eighteen elements account for their diversity. They arise with contact. They converge on feeling. They are headed by concentration. They are dominated by mindfulness. Their acme or point of transcendence is wisdom. Their essence is deliverance and they get merged in the deathless. Be it noted that the deathless is a term for Nibbāna. Therefore, as we have stated above, everything has the potentiality to yield the deathless, provided radical attention is ushered in.
It is indubitably clear, from this catechism, that the subject under consideration is concepts and thoughts. All mind objects partake of the character of concepts and thoughts. Therefore the mind objects, according to the Buddha, have to be evaluated on the lines of the above mentioned normative principles, and not on the lines of self essence and divine creation as postulated by soul theories.
In accordance with the dictum 'mind is the forerunner of all things', manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, the course of training advocated by the Buddha, which begins with name-and-form as object, reaches its consummation in seeing through name-and-form, that is, in its penetration. It culminates in the transcendence of name-and-form, by penetrating into its impermanent, suffering-fraught, and not-self nature. This fact is borne out by the discourses already quoted.
The essence of the teaching is release from name-and-form. When one rightly understands the relation between name and form as well as their emptiness, one is able to see through name-and-form. This penetration is the function of wisdom. So long as wisdom is lacking, consciousness has a tendency to get entangled in name-and-form. This is the insinuation of the following Dhammapada verse about the arahant:
Kodhaṃ jahe vippajaheyya mānaṃ,
saṃyojanaṃ sabbam atikkameyya,
taṃ nāmarūpasmim asajjamānaṃ,
aki˝canaṃ nānupatanti dukkhā.
"Let one put wrath away, conceit abandon,
And get well beyond all fetters as well,
That one, untrammelled by name-and-form,
With naught as his own - no pains befall."
The path shown by the Buddha, then, is one that leads to the transcendence of name-and-form by understanding its emptiness. In this connection, the Brahmajālasutta of the Dīgha Nikāya reveals a very important fact on analysis. What it portrays is how the sixty-two wrong views lose their lustre in the light of wisdom emanating from the non-manifestative consciousness of the Buddha, which is lustrous on all sides, sabbato pabha.
As to how a lustre could be superseded, we have already explained with reference to a film show. The film show lost its lustre when the doors were flung open. The narrow beam of light, directed on the cinema screen, faded away completely before the greater light now coming from outside. Similarly, the sixty-two wrong views in the Brahmajālasutta are seen to fade away before the light of wisdom coming from the non-manifestative consciousness of the Buddha. The narrow beams of sixty-two wrong views faded in the broader flood of light that is wisdom.
Those heretics who propounded those wrong views, conceived them by dogmatically holding on to name-and-form. They got entangled in name-and-form, and those views were the product of speculative logic based on it. We come across an allusion to this fact in the MahāViyūhasutta of the Sutta Nipāta. There it is declared that those of other sects are not free from the limitations of name-and-form.
Passaṃ naro dakkhiti nāmarūpaṃ,
disvāna vā ˝assati tānim eva,
kāmaṃ bahuṃ passatu appakaṃ vā,
na hi tena suddhiṃ kusalā vadanti.
"A seeing man will see only name-and-form,
Having seen he will know just those constituents alone,
Let him see much or little,
Experts do not concede purity thereby."
In the Brahmajālasutta itself we find some views advanced by those who had higher knowledges. With the help of those higher knowledges, which were still of the mundane type, they would see into their past, sometimes hundreds of thousands of their past lives, and drawing also from their ability to read others' minds, they would construct various views. Many such views are recorded in the Brahmajālasutta, only to be rejected and invalidated. Why so? The reason is given here in this verse.
The man who claims to see with those higher knowledges is seeing only name-and-form, passaṃ naro dakkhiti nāmarūpaṃ. Having seen, he takes whatever he sees as real knowledge, disvāna vā ˝assati tānim eva. Just as someone inside a closed room with tinted window panes sees only what is reflected on those dark panes, and not beyond, even so, those 'seers' got enmeshed in name-and-form when they proceeded to speculate on what they saw as their past lives. They took name-and-form itself to be real. That is why the Buddha declared that whether they saw much or little, it is of no use, since experts do not attribute purity to that kind of vision, kāmaṃ bahuṃ passatu appakaṃ vā, na hi tena suddhiṃ kusalā vadanti.
Here it is clear enough that those narrow wrong views are based on name-and-form, assuming it to be something real. The Buddha's vision, on the other hand, is one that transcends name-and-form. It is a supramundane vision. This fact is clearly revealed by the implications of the very title of the Brahmajālasutta. At the end of the discourse, the Buddha himself compares it to an all-embracing super-net. Just as a clever fisherman would throw a finely woven net well over a small lake, so that all the creatures living there are caught in it as they come up, all the possible views in the world are enmeshed or forestalled by this super-net, or brahmajāla.
Let us now pause to consider what the mesh of this net could be. If the Brahmajālasutta is a net, what constitutes that fine mesh in this net? There is a word occurring all over the discourse, which gives us a clear answer to this question. It is found in the phrase which the Buddha uses to disqualify every one of those views, namely, tadapi phassapaccayā, tadapi phassapaccayā, "and that too is due to contact, and that too is due to contact". So from this we can see that contact is the mesh of this net.
The medley of wrong views, current among those of other sects, is the product of the six sense-bases dependent on contact. The Buddha's vision, on the other hand, seems to be an all-encompassing lustre of wisdom, born of the cessation of the six sense-bases, which in effect, is the vision of Nibbāna. This fact is further clarified in the sutta by the statement of the Buddha that those who cling to those wrong views, based on name-and-form, keep on whirling within the saṃsāric round because of those very views.
Sabbe te chahi phassāyatanehi phussa phussa paṭisaṃvedenti, tesaṃ phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā taṇhā, taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti. Yato kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu, channaṃ phassāyatanānaṃ samudaya˝ca atthagama˝ca assāda˝ca ādīnava˝ca nissaraṇa˝ca yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ayaṃ imehi sabbeheva uttaritaraṃ pajānāti. "They all continue to experience feeling coming into contact again and again with the six sense-bases, and to them dependent on contact there is feeling, dependent on feeling there is craving, dependent on craving there is grasping, dependent on grasping there is becoming, dependent on becoming there is birth, and dependent on birth, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. But when, monks, a monk knows, as they truly are, the arising, the going down, the satisfaction, the peril and the stepping out concerning the six sense-bases, that monk has a knowledge which is far superior to that of all those dogmatists."
This paragraph clearly brings out the distinction between those who held on to such speculative views and the one who wins to the vision made known by the Buddha. The former were dependent on contact, that is, sensory contact, even if they possessed worldly higher knowledges. Because of contact originating from the six sense-bases there is feeling. Because of feeling they are lured into craving and grasping which make them go round and round in saṃsāra.
The emancipated monk who keeps to the right path, on the other hand, wins to that synoptic vision of the six sense-bases, replete in its five aspects. That is what is known as the light of wisdom. To him, all five aspects of the six sense-bases become clear, namely the arising, the going down, the satisfaction, the peril and the stepping out. That light of wisdom is considered the highest knowledge, precisely because it reveals all these five aspects of the six sense-bases.
The reference to the formula of dependent arising in the above passage is highly significant. It is clear proof of the fact that the law of dependent arising is not something to be explained with reference to a past existence. It is a law relevant to the present moment.
This name-and-form is reflected on consciousness. Now as to this consciousness, the Nidānasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya, which is a section dealing with the law of dependent arising in particular, defines it in a way that includes all the six types of consciousness.
Katama˝ca, bhikkhave, vi˝˝āṇaṃ? Chayime, bhikkhave, vi˝˝āṇakāyā - cakkhuvi˝˝āṇaṃ, sotavi˝˝āṇaṃ, ghānavi˝˝āṇaṃ, jivhāvi˝˝āṇaṃ, kāyavi˝˝āṇaṃ, manovi˝˝āṇaṃ, idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, vi˝˝āṇaṃ. "And what, monks, is consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness - eye- consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness and mind-consciousness; this, monks, is called consciousness."
This shows that the consciousness mentioned in the formula of dependent arising is not something like a re-linking consciousness. The reference here is not to just one consciousness. It is in dependence on name-and-form, reflected on all six types of consciousness, that the six sense-bases get established.
The discrimination between an 'internal' and an 'external' is the outcome of the inability to penetrate name-and-form, to see through it. There is an apparent duality: I, as one who sees, and name-and-form, as the objects seen. Between them there is a dichotomy as internal and external. It is on this very dichotomy that the six sense-bases are 'based'. Feeling and all the rest of it come on top of those six sense-bases. Craving and grasping follow suit, as a result of which those dogmatists get caught up in the vicious cycle of dependent arising and keep running round in saṃsāra as the Buddha has declared.
So then, it becomes clear from the Brahmajālasutta that such a wide variety of wrong views exist in this world due to the dogmatic involvement in name-and-form reflected on consciousness, that is by mis-taking the reflection to be one's self. This, in brief, is tantamount to sakkāyadiṭṭhi, or personality view.
Now let us take up a parable by way of an illustration of the distinction between the wrong view of the dogmatists, already analysed, and the right view, which is in complete contrast to it. It is an episode in the Ummaggajātaka which more or less looks like a parable to illustrate this point. In the Ummaggajātaka one comes across the problem of a gem. In that story there are in fact several such problems concerning gems, and we are taking up just one of them.
The citizens of Mithilā came and informed king Videha that there is a gem in the pond near the city gate. The king commissioned his royal adviser Senaka with the task of taking out the gem. He went and got the people to empty the pond but failed to find the gem there. Even the mud was taken out and the earth dug up in a vain attempt to locate the gem. When he confessed his failure to the king, the latter entrusted the job to bodhisatta Mahosadha, the youngest adviser. When he went there and had a look around, he immediately understood that the gem is actually in a crow's nest on a palm tree near the pond. What appeared in the pond is only its reflection. He convinced the king of this fact by getting a man to immerse a bowl of water into the pond, which also reflected the gem. Then the man climbed up the palm tree and found the gem there, as predicted by Mahosadha.
If we take this episode as an illustration, the view of the dogmatists can be compared to Senaka's view. The discovery of the Buddha that name-and-form is a mere reflection is like the solution advanced by bodhisatta Mahosadha to the problem of the gem in the pond.
Now what is the role of personality view in this connection? It is said that the Buddha preached the Dhamma adopting a via media between two extreme views. What are they? The eternalist view and the nihilist view. The eternalist view is like that attachment to the reflection. Sometimes, when one sees one's own image in water, one falls in love with it, imagining it to be someone else, as in the case of the dog on the plank mentioned in an earlier sermon. It can sometimes arouse hate as well. Thus there could be both self-love and self-hate.
Inclining towards these two attitudes, the personality view itself leads to the two extreme views known as eternalism and nihilism, or annihilationism. It is like Senaka's attempt to find the gem by emptying the water and digging the bottom of the pond. The Buddha avoids both these extremes by understanding that this name-and-form is a reflection, owing to the reflective nature of this pond of consciousness. It has no essence.
The name in this name-and-form, as we have already stated in an earlier sermon, is merely a formal name, or an apparent name. And the form here is only a nominal form, a form only in name. There is neither an actual name nor a substantial form here. Name is only apparent, and form is only nominal. With this preliminary understanding one has to arouse that wisdom by building up the ability to see through name-and-form, in order to win to freedom from this name-and-form.
So, in this sermon, our special attention has been on name-and-form, on the interrelation between name-and-form and consciousness. All this reveals to us the importance of the first two lines of the problematic verse already quoted, vi˝˝ānaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ, "consciousness which is non-manifestative, endless, lustrous on all sides".
According to the Buddha's vision, by fully comprehending the fact that name-and-form is a mere image, or reflection, the non-manifestative consciousness develops the penetrative power to see through it. But those others, who could not understand that it is a reflection, aroused self-love and self-hate. It is as if one is trying to outstrip one's shadow by running towards it out of fun, while the other is trying to flee from it out of fear. Such is the nature of the two extreme views in this world.
Dvīhi, bhikkhave, diṭṭhigatehi pariyuṭṭhitā devamanussā olīyanti eke, atidhāvanti eke, cakkhumanto ca passanti. "Obsessed by two views, monks, are gods and men, some of whom lag behind, while others overreach, only they do see that have eyes to see."
This is how the Itivuttaka, the collection of the 'thus said' discourses, sums up the situation in the world. Some fall back and lag behind, while others overstep and overreach. It is only they that see, who have eyes to see.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
This is the tenth sermon in the series of sermons on Nibbāna. With the help of a parable based on the problem of the gem in the Ummaggajātaka, we made an attempt, towards the end of our last sermon, to clarify to some extent how the personality view arises due to the ignorance of the fact that name-and-form is something reflected on consciousness. We mentioned in brief how a certain would-be wise man took the trouble to empty a pond and even dig out the mud under the impression that there is actually a gem in it, simply because there appeared to be a gem in the pond.
Similarly, by taking to be real name-and-form, which is only an image reflected on consciousness leading to a personality view, sakkāyadiṭṭhi, both eternalism and nihilism, built on the two views of existence and non-existence, tended towards two extremes. Under the influence of self love, eternalism took up the view that there is a self, and looked forward to its perpetuation. Prompted by self hate, annihilationism or nihilism cherished the fond hope that the release from this self will occur at death. Both these extreme views confuse the issue by not understanding the reflected image as such.
Now how did the middle path, which the Buddha introduced to the world, avoid these two extremes? It is by offering a knowledge and vision of things as they are, yathābhūta˝āṇadassana, in place of those two views of existence and non-existence. In other words, he made known to the world the true knowledge and vision that name-and-form is merely an image reflected on consciousness.
There is a special significance in the word yathābhūta. In contradistinction to the two words bhava and vibhava, the word bhūta has some peculiarity of its own. In order to clarify the meaning of the term yathābhūta, we can draw upon a discourse in the Itivuttaka, a few lines of which we had already quoted at the end of the previous sermon. When presented in full, that discourse will make it clear why the Buddha introduced the word bhūta in preference to the existing usage in terms of bhava and vibhava. This is how that discourse proceeds:
Dvīhi, bhikkhave, diṭṭhigatehi pariyuṭṭhitā devamanussā olīyanti eke, atidhāvanti eke, cakkhumanto va passanti. Katha˝ca, bhikkhave, olīyanti eke? Bhavārāmā, bhikkhave, devamanussā bhavaratā bhavasammuditā, tesaṃ bhavanirodhāya dhamme desiyamāne cittaṃ na pakkhandati na pasīdati na santiṭṭhati nādhimuccati. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, olīyanti eke.
Katha˝ca, bhikkhave, atidhāvanti eke? Bhaveneva kho pana eke aṭṭīyamānā harāyamānā jigucchamānā vibhavaṃ abhinandanti - yato kira, bho, ayaṃ attā kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā ucchijjati vinassati na hoti paraṃ maraṇā, etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ etaṃ yāthāvanti. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, atidhāvanti eke.
Katha˝ca, bhikkhave, cakkhumanto passanti? Idha bhikkhu bhūtaṃ bhūtato passati, bhūtaṃ bhūtato disvā bhūtassa nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya paṭipanno hoti. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, cakkhumanto va passantī'ti."
"Obsessed by two views, monks, are gods and men, some of whom lag behind, while others overreach. Only they do see that have eyes to see. How, monks, do some lag behind? Gods and men, monks, delight in existence, they are attached to existence, they rejoice in existence. When Dhamma is being preached to them for the cessation of existence, their minds do not reach out towards it, do not get pleased in it, do not get steadied in it, do not rest confident with it. It is thus that some lag behind.
How, monks, do some overreach? Being troubled, ashamed, and disgusted of existence as such, some delight in non-existence - since this self, at the breaking up of this body after death, will be annihilated and destroyed, this is peace, this is excellent, this is how it should be. Thus, monks do some overreach.
And how, monks, do those with eyes see? Herein a monk sees the become as become. Having seen the become as become, he is treading the path towards dejection, dispassion and cessation regarding becoming. Thus it is, monks, that those with eyes see."
This passage clearly brings out the extreme nature of those two views of existence and non-existence. The two verses occurring at the end of this sutta present the gist of the discourse even more clearly:
Ye bhūtaṃ bhūtato disvā,
bhūtassa ca atikkamaṃ,
Sa ve bhūtapari˝˝o so,
bhūtassa vibhavā bhikkhu,
"Those who have seen the become as become,
As well as the going beyond of whatever has become,
Are released in regard to things as they are,
By the exhaustion of craving for becoming.
That monk, who has fully comprehended the become,
Who is devoid of craving for continued becoming,
By the discontinuation of what has become,
Will not come back again to a state of becoming."
Now it is extremely clear, even from the quotation as it stands, that the Buddha has interposed this word bhūta between the dichotomous terms bhava and vibhava. In the contemporary society, these two terms were used to denote the existence and the destruction of a soul. This usage is clearly revealed by some discourses, in which those who held on to similar views expressed them in such terms as bhavissāmi and na bhavissāmi. These expressions, meaning 'I will be' and 'I will not be', carry with them an implication of a person or a self.
The term bhūta, on the other hand, is not amenable to such a usage. It has the passive sense of something that has become. Like that reflection mentioned earlier, it conveys the idea of being produced by causes and conditions. Going by the analogy of the reflected image mentioned above, the eternalist, because of his narcissistic selflove, gets attached to his own self image and lags behind. When the Buddha preaches the Dhamma for the cessation of existence, he shrinks from fear that it would lead to the destruction of his self. It is like the narcissistic attempt to embrace one's own image in water out of self love.
The annihilationist view leads to an attitude of escapism, like that of one who is obsessed by his own shadow. One cannot outstrip one's own shadow. It is only a vain attempt. So also is the fond hope of the nihilist that by simply negating self one can be free from repeated birth. It turns out to be mere wishful thinking, because simply by virtue of the view 'I shall not be after death' one cannot win deliverance, so long as such defilements like ignorance and craving are there. These were the two extremes towards which those two dogmatic views of eternalism and annihilationism tended.
By introducing the term bhūta the Buddha made it known that the five groups are the product of causes and conditions, that they are conditionally arisen. In the Itivuttaka, for instance, one comes across the following significant lines: Jātaṃ bhūtaṃ samuppannaṃ, kataṃ saṅkhatamaddhuvaṃ. The reference here is to the five groups of grasping. They are "born", "become", "arisen" (that is conditionally arisen), "made up", "prepared", and "unstable". These words are suggestive of some artificiality. The word addhuvaṃ brings out their impermanence and insubstantiality. There is no eternal essence, like sat, or being. It is merely a self image, a reflection. So it seems that the word bhūta has connotations of being a product of causes and conditions.
Therefore, in spite of the scare it has aroused in the soul-theorists, Nibbāna is not something that destroys a truly existing entity. Though Nibbāna is called bhavanirodha, cessation of existence, according to the outlook of the Buddha the worldlings have merely a craving for existence, bhavataṅhā, and not a real existence. It is only a conceit of existence, the conceit 'am', asmimāna.
In reality it amounts to a craving, and this is the significance of the term taṅhā ponobhāvikā, craving which makes for re-becoming. Because of that craving, which is always bent forward, worldlings keep running round in saṃsāra. But on analysis a concrete situation always reveals a state of a become, a bhūta, as something produced by causes and conditions.
A donkey drags a wagon when a carrot is projected towards it from the wagon. The journey of beings in saṃsāra is something like that. So what we have here is not the destruction of some existing essence of being or a soul. From the point of view of the Dhamma the cessation of existence, or bhavanirodha, amounts to a stopping of the process of becoming, by the removal of the causes leading to it, namely ignorance and craving. It is, in effect, the cessation of suffering itself.
Those who held on to the annihilationist view, entertained the hope that their view itself entitled them to their cherished goal. But it was in vain, because the ignorance, craving, and grasping within them created for them the five groups of grasping, or this mass of suffering, again and again despite their view, uppajjati dukkham idaṃ punappunaṃ.
So what we have here is a deep philosophy of things as they are, which follows a certain law of causality. The Buddha's middle path is based on this knowledge and vision of things as they are, avoiding both extremes of self indulgence and self mortification.
Let us now consider the question of existence involved in this context. The terms bhava and vibhava are generally associated with the idea of worlds' existence. Some seem to take atthi, or 'is', as the basic element in the grammatical structure. Very often those upholders of dogmatic views brought up such propositions as 'everything exists', sabbaṃ atthi, and 'nothing exists', sabbaṃ natthi, before the Buddha, expecting him to give a categorical answer.
But the Buddha pointed out that asmi, or 'am', is more basic than the usage of 'is' and 'is not'. The most elementary concept is asmi, or 'am'. Hence the term asmimāna, the conceit 'am'. In the grammatical structure, the pride of place should be given to asmi, or 'am'. We sometimes tend to regard atthi, or 'is', as the primary term. But asmi deserves pride of place in so far as it is the basic element in the grammatical structure. It is like the central peg from which all measurings and surveyings of the world start, since the word māna in asmimāna also means 'measuring'. Given asmi, or 'am', everything else comes to be.
Let us take an illustration. If, for instance, we say "there is something", someone will pose the question "where is it?" It should be either here or there or yonder, that is, over there. It can be in one of those three places. Now, if it is here, how does that place become a 'here'? That is where I am. 'There' is where he is, and 'yonder' is where you are.
So we have here the framework of the grammar. Here is the basic lining up for the formation of the grammatical structure, its most elementary pattern. So, then, 'I am', 'you are', and 'he is'. In this way we see that one can speak of the existence of something relative to a viewpoint represented by 'am' or 'I am'. That is why the Buddha rejected as extremes the two views of absolute existence and absolute non-existence, based on 'is', atthi, and 'is not', natthi.
Only when there is an 'I', can something exist relative to that I. And that something, if it is 'there', it is where 'I' am not present, or at a distance from me. If it is 'yonder', or over there, it is before you who are in front of me. And if it is 'here', it is beside me. From this we can see that this conceit 'am' is, as it were, the origin of the whole world, the origin of the world of grammar.
On a previous occasion, too, while discussing the significance of the two terms itthabhāva and a˝˝athābhāva, we had to make a similar statement. The Buddha draws our attention to a very important fact in this concern, namely, the fact that the conceit 'am' does not arise without causes and conditions. It is not something uncaused, and unconditioned. If it is uncaused and unconditioned, it can never be made to cease. The notion 'am' arises due to certain causes and conditions. There is a word suggestive of this causal origin, namely upādāya.
Now, for instance, we use the term pa˝c'upādānakkhandha. When we speak of the five groups of grasping, the word upādāna (upa + ā + dā) is often rendered by grasping. The prefix upa is supposed to imply the tenacity of the hold. One can therefore ask whether it is not sufficient to relax the hold on the five groups. Strictly speaking, the prefix upa in upādāna conveys the sense of proximity or nearness. Sometimes the two words upeti and upādiyati are found in juxtaposition. Upeti, upa + i, to go, means 'coming near' or 'approaching', and upādiyati has the sense of 'holding on to', having come close. In other words, we have here not only a case of holding, but of holding 'on to'.
So the totality of existence, from the point of view of Dhamma, is dependent on a holding on, or a grasping on. It is not something uncaused and unconditioned. Here we may remind ourselves of the simile of the winding of a rope or a cord which we brought up in a previous sermon. We cannot help going back to the same simile again and again, if we are to deepen our understanding of the Dhamma.
In that illustration we spoke of two persons winding up several strands to make a rope or a cord. But both are winding in the same direction from either end. Such an attempt at winding, however long it is continued, does not result in an actual winding, for the simple reason that the winding from one end is continually being unwinded from the other end. But what happens if a third person catches hold of the rope in the middle? Due to that hold on the middle, something like a rope appears to get winded up.
Now existence, too, is something similar. It is because of the hold in the middle that the rope gets wound up. From the point of view of an outsider, the one in the middle is holding on to a rope. But the truth is, that the semblance of a rope is there due to that holding on itself. This, then, is the norm of this world. 'Whatever is of a nature to arise, all that is of a nature to cease, yaṃ ki˝ci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammaṃ.
It is in the nature of things that every winding ends up in an unwinding. But because of that hold in the middle, the windings get accumulated. Just because of his hold in the middle, his hand is under stress and strain. Similarly, the stress and strain that is existence is also due to a grasping or a holding on to, upādānapaccayā bhavo.
In fact, we have not given this illustration merely for the sake of a simile. We can adduce reasons for its validity even from the discourses. This word upādāya is particularly noteworthy. As we have already shown, upādāna does not simply mean grasping, or grasping rigidly, but holding on to something, having come close to it. This holding on creates a certain relationship, which may be technically termed a relativity. The two stand relative to each other. For instance, that rope exists relative to the grasping of the person who holds on to it. Now upādāya is the absolutive form of upādāna, it has the implication of something relative.
There is a discourse in the Khandhasaṃyutta, which clearly reveals this fact. It is a sermon preached by Venerable Puṇṇa Mantāṇiputta to Venerable Ānanda. This is the relevant paragraph:
Upādāya, āvuso Ānanda, asmīti hoti, no anupādāya. Ki˝ca upādāya asmīti hoti, no anupādāya? Rūpaṃ upādāya asmīti hoti, no anupādāya; vedanaṃ upādāya asmīti hoti, no anupādāya; sa˝˝aṃ upādāya asmīti hoti, no anupādāya; saṅkhāre upādāya asmīti hoti, no anupādāya; vi˝˝āṇaṃ upādāya asmīti hoti, no anupādāya. Upādāya, āvuso Ānanda, asmīti hoti, no anupādāya.
Seyyathāpi, āvuso Ānanda, itthī vā puriso vā daharo yuvā maṇḍanakajātiko ādāse vā parisuddhe pariyodāte acche vā udakapatte sakaṃ mukhanimittaṃ paccavekkhamāno upādāya passeyya, no anupādāya, evam eva kho, āvuso Ānanda, upādāya asmīti hoti, no anupādāya.
Let us now try to get at the meaning of this important passage, which should clarify further what we have already attempted to explain through similes.
"It is with dependence, friend Ānanda, that the notion 'am' occurs, not without dependence. With dependence on what, does the notion 'am' occur, and not without dependence? With dependence on form does the notion 'am' occur, not without dependence; with dependence on feeling does the notion 'am' occur, not without dependence; with dependence on perception does the notion 'am' occur, not without dependence; with dependence on preparations does the notion 'am' occur, not without dependence; with dependence on consciousness does the notion 'am' occur, not without dependence.
Just as, friend Ānanda, a woman or a man, youthful and fond of adornment, in looking at her or his facial image in a mirror or in a bowl filled with pure, clear, clean water, would be seeing it with dependence and not without dependence, even so, friend Ānanda, it is with dependence that the notion 'am' occurs, not without dependence."
In fact, it is rather difficult to render the word upādāya. It means 'in dependence on' something and has a relative sense. Reinforced with the emphatic double negative, the assertion seems to imply that the notion 'am' is something dependent and not independent, that it arises due to causes and conditions. In the explanation that follows, this dictum is substantiated by bringing in the five groups or aggregates, relative to which one posits an 'am'.
The subsequent illustration serves to bring out the required nuance of the term upādāya, which is more often connected with the rather gross idea of grasping. The young woman or the young man is looking at her or his face in a mirror. They can see their own face, or the sign of it, mukhanimitta, only with the help of a mirror, that is, as an image reflected on it. They are dependent on a mirror or a similar object for seeing their own face, not independent.
What Venerable Puṇṇa Mantāṇiputta seems to stress, is that the notion 'am' is the result of grasping or holding on to form, feeling, perception, preparations, and consciousness. It is when one looks into a mirror that one suddenly becomes self-conscious. Whether one has a liking or a dislike for what one sees, one gets the notion 'this is me'. So it is by coming close to a mirror which reflects one's facial image that the notion 'am' occurs depending on it. The word upādāya therefore approximates to the idea of coming close and holding on to.
That notion occurs due to a relationship arising from that holding on. Even if one already has no such notion, the moment one looks into a mirror one is suddenly reminded of it, as if to exclaim: "Ah, here I am!" This is the gist of what Venerable Puṇṇa Mantāṇiputta is trying to put across through this discourse.
This shows that the conceit 'am' arises due to the five grasping groups. The absolutive upādāya, though akin to upādāna, has a deeper significance. It is a word suggestive of a relationship. It does not merely mean a holding on, but also a certain necessary relationship arising out of that holding on. Just as the looking into a mirror or a bowl of water gives rise to a facial image as a reflection, here too the relationship calls forth the deluded reflection "here I am". Given the notion "here I am", there follows the corollary "things that are mine".
So there is supposed to be an 'I' in contradistinction to things that are 'mine'. It is the difficulty to demarcate the area of applicability between these two concepts that has given rise to insoluble problems. 'Who am I and what is mine?' The twenty modes of personality view, sakkāya diṭṭhi, portray how one is at one's wit's end to solve this problem.
Let us now see how the twenty modes of personality view are made up. For instance, as regards form, it is fourfold as follows: Rūpaṃ attato samanupassati, rūpavantaṃ vā attānaṃ, attani vā rūpaṃ, rūpasmiṃ vā attānaṃ. "He regards form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form." It is the same with the other four groups. In this way, the personality view is altogether twenty-fold.
All this comes about due to the ignorance that name-and-form is only a reflection, like that facial image. In grasping this self image of name-and-form one grasps the five groups. Attachment to name-and-form amounts to a holding on to these five groups. To many, the relationship between name-and-form and the grasping groups appears as a big puzzle. Wherever one looks, one sees this self image of name-and-form. But when one grasps it, what comes within the grasp is a group of form, feeling, perception, preparations, and consciousness.
The magical illusion created by consciousness is so complete that it is capable of playing a dual role, as in double acting. Because it reflects, like a mirror, consciousness itself is grasped, just as one grasps the mirror. Not only the reflection of the mirror, but the mirror itself is grasped. The grasping group of consciousness represents such a predicament.
One can form an idea about the relation between name-and-form and consciousness by going deeper into the implications of this discourse. In the discussion of the interrelation between name and form, the Buddha makes use of two highly significant terms, namely adhivacanasamphassa and paṭighasamphassa. How contact arises dependent on name-and-form is explained by the Buddha in the MahāNidānasutta of the Dīgha Nikāya. It is addressed to Venerable Ānanda in the form of a catechism.
Phassa, or contact, is a sort of hybrid, carrying with it the implications of both adhivacanasamphassa and paṭighasamphassa. That is to say, it partakes of the character of name, nāma, as suggested by adhivacanasamphassa, as well as that of form, rūpa, indicated by paṭighasamphassa. This will be clear from the relevant section of the catechism in the MahāNidānasutta:
'Nāmarūpapaccayā phasso'ti iti kho panetaṃ vuttaṃ, tad'Ānanda, imināpetaṃ pariyāyena veditabbaṃ, yathā nāmarūpapaccayā phasso. Yehi, Ānanda, ākārehi yehi liṅgehi yehi nimittehi yehi uddesehi nāmakāyassa pa˝˝atti hoti, tesu ākāresu tesu liṅgesu tesu nimittesu tesu uddesesu asati api nu kho rūpakāye adhivacanasamphasso pa˝˝āyethā'ti?' 'No hetaṃ, bhante.'
'Yehi, Ānanda, ākārehi yehi liṅgehi yehi nimittehi yehi uddesehi rūpakāyassa pa˝˝atti hoti, tesu ākāresu tesu liṅgesu tesu nimittesu tesu uddesesu asati api nu kho nāmakāye paṭighasamphasso pa˝˝āyethā'ti?' 'No hetaṃ, bhante.'
'Yehi, Ānanda, ākārehi yehi liṅgehi yehi nimittehi yehi uddesehi nāmakāyassa ca rūpakāyassa ca pa˝˝atti hoti, tesu ākāresu tesu liṅgesu tesu nimittesu tesu uddesesu asati api nu kho adhivacanasamphasso vā paṭighasamphasso vā pa˝˝āyethā'ti?' 'No hetaṃ, bhante.'
'Yehi, Ānanda, ākārehi yehi liṅgehi yehi nimittehi yehi uddesehi nāmarūpassa pa˝˝atti hoti, tesu ākāresu tesu liṅgesu tesu nimittesu tesu uddesesu asati api nu kho phasso pa˝˝āyethā'ti?' 'No hetaṃ, bhante.' 'Tasmātih'Ānanda, eseva hetu etaṃ nidānaṃ esa samudayo esa paccayo phassassa, yadidaṃ nāmarūpaṃ.'
"From name-and-form as condition, contact comes to be. Thus it has been said above. And that Ānanda, should be understood in this manner, too, as to how from name-and-form as condition, contact arises. If, Ānanda, all those modes, characteristics, signs and exponents, by which the name-group, nāma-kāya, is designated were absent, would there be manifest any verbal impression, adhivacanasamphassa, in the form-group, rūpa-kāya?" "There would not, lord."
"If, Ānanda, all those modes, characteristics, signs and exponents, by which the form-group is designated were absent, would there be manifest any resistance-impression, paṭighasamphasso, in the name-group?" "There would not, lord."
"And if, Ānanda, all those modes, characteristics, signs and exponents, by which there is a designation of both name-group and form-group were absent, would there be manifest either any verbal impression or any resistance-impression?" "There would not, lord."
"And if, Ānanda, all those modes, characteristics, signs and exponents, by which there comes to be a designation of name-and-form were absent, would there be manifest any contact?" "There would not, lord." "Wherefore, Ānanda, this itself is the cause, this is the origin, this is the condition for contact, that is to say, name-and-form."
With the help of four words of allied sense, namely ākāra, mode, liṅga, characteristic, nimitta, sign, and uddesa, exponent, the Buddha catechetically brings out four conclusions by this disquisition. They are:
1) By whatever modes, characteristics, signs and exponents the name-group, nāma-kāya, is designated, in their absence no designation of verbal impression, adhivacanasamphassa, in the form-group, rūpa-kāya, is possible.
2) By whatever modes, characteristics, signs and exponents the form-group is designated, in their absence no designation of resistance-impression, paṭighasamphasso, in the name-group, nāmakāya, is possible.
3) By whatever modes, characteristics, signs and exponents both name-group and form-group are designated, in their absence no designation of verbal impression or resistance-impression is possible.
4) By whatever modes, characteristics, signs and exponents name-and-form is designated, in their absence no designation of contact is possible.
All this may well appear like a riddle, but then let us consider what name-and-form means, to begin with. The definition we gave to nāma in our very first sermon happened to be different from the well known definition nowadays given in terms of a bending. We interpreted nāma in the sense of a 'naming'. Now this term adhivacana also conveys the same idea. Adhivacana, synonym, nirutti, nomenclature, and pa˝˝atti, designation, are part and parcel of linguistic usage.
In the Niruttipathasutta of the Khandhasaṃyutta one comes across three terms, niruttipatha, adhivacanapatha, and pa˝˝attipatha, pathways of nomenclature, pathways of synonyms, pathways of designation. There three terms are closely allied in meaning, in that they bring out in sharp relief three aspects of linguistic usage. Nirutti emphasises the explanatory or expository function of language, adhivacana its symbolic and metaphorical character, while pa˝˝atti brings out its dependence on convention.
What we have here is adhivacanasamphassa. Its affinity to name is obvious, and this is precisely the meaning we attributed to nāma. Therefore, what we have in this concept of nāmakāya, or name-group, literally 'name-body', is a set of first principles in linguistic usage pertaining to definition.
The form-group, or rūpakāya, literally 'form-body', on the other hand has something to do with resistance, as suggested by the term paṭighasamphassa. Paṭigha means 'striking against'. Form, or rūpa, has a striking quality, while name, or nāma, has a descriptive quality. Phassa, or contact, is a hybrid of these two. This is what gives a deeper dimension to the above disquisition.
The point that the Buddha seeks to drive home is the fact that the concept of contact necessarily presupposes both name and form. In other words, name and form are mutually interrelated, as already stated above. There would be no verbal impression in the form-group, if there were no modes, characteristics, etc., proper to name. Likewise there could be no resistant impression in the name-group, if there were no modes, characteristics, etc., proper to form.
At first sight these two may appear as totally opposed to each other. But what is implied is a case of mutual interrelation. The expression peculiar to the name-group is a necessary condition for the form-group, while the resistance peculiar to the form-group is a necessary condition for the name-group. Since here we have something deep, let us go for an illustration for the sake of clarity.
As we have already stated, a verbal impression in regard to the form-group is there because of the constituents of the name-group. Now the form-group consists of the four great primaries earth, water, fire and air. Even to distinguish between them by their qualities of hardness and softness, hotness and coolness, etc., feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention, which are the constituents of the name-group, have to play their part. Thus it is with the help of those members on the name side that the four basic elements associated with form receive recognition.
Metaphor is a figure of speech, common in ornate literary language as well as in technical terminology. Here the inanimate is animated by personification. What is proper to the animate world is superimposed on the inanimate. Now the word adhivacana is, even literally, a superimposition, and it is a term with obvious metaphorical associations. Whereas in the literary field it has an ornate value as a figurative expression, in technical usage it serves the purpose of facility of expression by getting the tools to speak for themselves.
For instance, a carpenter might speak of two planks touching each other as if they can actually touch and feel. The concept of touch, even when it is attributed to inanimate objects, is the outcome of attention, in this case the attention of the carpenter. Here, again, we are reminded of the role of attention in the origination of things as stated in the Kiṃmūlakasutta and Samiddhisutta discussed above. In accordance with the dictum "Mind is the forerunner of all things", "All things are rooted in interest, they originate with attention and arise out of contact", chandamūlakā, āvuso, sabbe dhammā, manasikārasambhavā, phassasamudayā (etc.). Wherever the carpenter's interest went, his attention discovered and picked up the thing, and here the thing is the fact of two planks touching each other.
Interest, attention and contact together bring out some deeper implications of the law of dependent arising. Not only with regard to inanimate objects, but even in the case of this conscious body, the question of contact is related to the fact of attention.
If, for instance I ask what I am touching now, one might say that I am touching the palm leaf fan in my hand. This is because we usually associate the idea of touching with the hand that holds. But suppose I put away the fan and ask again what I am touching now, one might find it difficult to answer. It might not be possible for another to guess by mere external observation, since it is essentially subjective. It is dependent on my attention. It could even be my robe that I am touching in the sense of contact, in which case I am becoming conscious of my body as apart from the robe I am wearing.
Consciousness follows in the wake of attention. Whatever my attention picks up, of that I am conscious. Though I have in front of me so many apparently visible objects, until my attention is focussed, eye-consciousness does not come about. The basic function of this type of consciousness, then, is to distinguish between the eye and the object seen. It is only after the eye has become conscious, that other factors necessary for sense perception fall into place.
The two things born of that basic discrimination, together with the discriminating consciousness itself, that is eye-consciousness, make up the concept of contact. Cakkhu˝ca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuvi˝˝āṇaṃ, tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso. "Dependent on eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises, the concurrence of the three is contact."
The same principle holds good in the case of the two planks touching each other. All this goes to show that it is with the help of the factors in the name-group that we can even metaphorically speak of a contact between inanimate things.
Let us now consider how resistance-impression, paṭighasamphassa, comes about. It is said that the factors of the form-group have a part to play in producing resistance-impression on the name-group. We sometimes speak of an idea 'striking us', as if it were something material. Or else an idea could be 'at the back' of our mind and a word 'on the tip' of our tongue.
The clearest manifestation of contact is that between material objects, where collision is suggestive of resistance, as implied by the word paṭigha. This primary sense of striking against or striking together is implicit even in the simile given by the Buddha in the Dhātuvibhaṅgasutta of the Majjhima Nikāya, and in the Phassamūlakasutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya, concerning two sticks being rubbed together to kindle a fire.
Though as a gross manifestation contact is primarily associated with the form-group, it is essentially connected with the name-group, as we have already explained with illustrations. It is when both resistance-impression and verbal impression come together that contact arises, dependent on name-and-form, nāmarūpapaccayā phasso.
Another point that needs to be clarified in this connection is the exact significance of the word rūpa. This word has been variously interpreted and explained among different Buddhist sects. How did the Buddha define rūpa? In ordinary usage it can mean either forms visible to the eye, or whatever is generally spoken of as 'material'. Its exact significance has become a subject of controversy. What precisely do we mean by 'rūpa'?
The Buddha himself has explained the word, giving the following etymology in the Khajjanīyasutta of the Khandhasaṃyutta in the Saṃyutta Nikāya. While defining the five groups there, he defines the form group as follows:
Ki˝ca, bhikkhave, rūpaṃ vadetha? Ruppatīti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā rūpan'ti vuccati. Kena ruppati? Sītena pi ruppati, uṇhena pi ruppati, jighacchāya pi ruppati, pipāsāya pi ruppati, daṃsamakasavātātapasiriṃsapasamphassena pi ruppati. Ruppatīti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā rūpan'ti vuccati.
"And what, monks, do you call rūpa? It is affected, monks, that is why it is called rūpa. Affected by what? Affected by cold, affected by heat, affected by hunger, affected by thirst, affected by contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, sun and serpents. It is affected, monks, that is why it is called rūpa."
This definition seems to convey something very deep, so much so that various Buddhist sects came out with various interpretations of this passage. The Buddha departs from the way of approach taken up by the materialistic systems of thought in the world in defining rūpa with ruppati, 'being affected'. It is not the inanimate trees and rocks in the world that are said to be affected by cold and heat, but this conscious body. So this body is not conceived of as a bundle of atoms to be animated by introducing into it a life faculty, jīvitindriya. What is meant by rūpa is this same body, this body with form, which, for the meditator, is a fact of experience.
Attempts at interpretation from a scholastic point of view created a lot of complications. But the definition, as it stands, is clear enough. It is directly addressed to experience. The purpose of the entire Dhamma preached by the Buddha is not to encourage an academic dabbling in philosophical subtleties with a mere jumble of words. The purpose is utter disenchantment, dispassion and cessation, ekantanibbidāya, virāgāya, nirodhāya. Therefore the etymology given here in terms of ruppati, 'to be affected', is in full accord with that purpose. Rūpa is so called, because it is affected by cold, heat, and the sting of gadflies, mosquitoes, etc., not because of any atomism in it.
If we are to examine further the meaning of this verb ruppati, we can count on the following quotation from the Piṅgiyasutta of the Pārāyanavagga in the Sutta Nipāta. It runs: ruppanti rūpesu janā pamattā, "heedless men are affected in regard to forms". The canonical commentary Cūḷaniddesa, commenting on the word, brings out the various nuances connected with it. Ruppantīti kuppanti pīḷayanti ghaṭṭayanti byādhitā domanassitā honti. "Ruppanti means to be adversely affected, to be afflicted, to come into contact with, to be dis-eased and dis-pleased."
Surely it is not the trees and rocks that are affected in this manner. It is this animate body that is subject to all this. The pragmatic purpose of utter detachment, dispassion and cessation is clear enough even from this commentary. What is known as the form-group, rūpakkhandha, is one vast wound with nine apertures. This wound is affected when it is touched by cold and heat, when gadflies and mosquitoes land on it. This wound gets irritated by them.
We come across yet another canonical reference in support of these nuances in the following two lines in the Uṭṭhānasutta of the Sutta Nipāta. Āturāna˝hi kā niddā, sallaviddhāna ruppataṃ. "For what sleep could there be for those who are afflicted, being pierced with a dart."
These two lines stress the need for heedfulness for beings pierced with the arrow of craving. Here, too, the verb ruppati has the sense of being affected or afflicted. All this goes to show that the early Buddhist concept of rūpa had a striking simplicity about it.
As we have already stated at the very outset, the teachings in the discourses are simple enough. But there is a certain depth in this very simplicity, for it is only when the water is lucid and limpid that one can see the bottom of a pond. But with the passage of time there was a tendency to lose interest in these discourses, because of the general predilection for complexity.
Materialistic philosophers, in particular, were carried away by this trend, whether they were Hindus or Buddhists. Modern day scientists, too, got caught in this trend. They pursued the materialistic overtones of the word rūpa, without realizing that they are running after a mirage. They went on analysing matter, until they ended up with an atomism and grasped a heap of concepts. The analysis of matter thus precipitated a grasping of a mass of concepts. Whether one grasps a pole or a mole, it is a grasping all the same.
The Buddha's admonitions, on the contrary, point in a different direction. He pointed out that in order to be free from the burdensome oppression of form, one has to be free from the perception of form. What is of relevance here is the very perception of form, rūpasa˝˝ā. From the point of view of Dhamma, any attempt at analysis of the materialistic concept of form, or any microscopic analysis of matter, would lead to a pursuit of a mirage.
This fact, the modern day scientist is now in a position to appreciate. He has found that the mind with which he carries on the analysis is influencing his findings at every level. In other words, he has been running after a mirage, due to his ignorance of the mutual interrelation between name and form. One would not be in such a plight, if one understands that the real problem at issue is not that of form, but of the perception of form.
In an earlier sermon we happened to quote a verse which makes it extremely clear. Let us now hark back to that verse, which occurs in the Jaṭāsutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya.
Yattha nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca,
paṭighaṃ rūpasa˝˝ā ca,
etthesā chijjate jaṭā.
"Where name and form
As well as resistance and perception of form
Are completely cut off,
It is there that the tangle gets snapped."
The entire saṃsāric problem is solved when the tangle gets snapped. Name and form, resistance and perception of form are completely cut off in that non-manifestative consciousness mentioned in our earlier sermons. That, in effect, is the end of the tangle within and the tangle without.
Our discussion of the law of dependent arising must have made it clear that there is an interrelation between name-and-form and consciousness on the one hand, and between name and form themselves on the other. This, then, is a case of a tangle within and a tangle without. Like the central spot of a whirlpool, the deepest point of the entire formula of paṭicca samuppāda is traceable to the interrelation that obtains between name and form on the one hand, and between name-and-form and consciousness on the other.
As far as the significance of perception of form is concerned, the true purpose of the spiritual endeavour, according to the Buddha, is the very freedom from this perception of form. How does perception of form come about? It is due to that 'striking against', or resistance. Perception of form arises, for instance, when gadflies and mosquitoes land on this body.
As we have already mentioned, even the distinctions of hard and soft, etc., with which we recognize the four elements, is a matter of touching. We are only trying to measure and gauge the four great primaries with this human frame. We can never ever comprehend fully the gamut of these four great primaries. But we are trying to understand them through this human frame in a way that is meaningful to our lives.
All kinds of beings have their own specific experience of 'touch', in relation to their experience of the four elements. So what we have here is entirely a question of perception of form. The true purpose, then, should be the release of one's mind from this perception of form. It is only when the mind is freed from resistance and the perception of form, as well as from name-and-form, that one can win to the deliverance from this problem of the tangle within and the tangle without that is saṃsāra.
Yet another fact emerges from the above discussion. The two views of existence and non-existence, bhava/vibhava, asserting an absolute existence and an absolute non-existence, seem to have posed an insoluble problem to many philosophers. Concerning the origin of the world, they wondered whether sat, or being, came out of asat, or non-being, or vice versa.
All these problems arose out of a misunderstanding about form, or material objects, as we may well infer from the following two lines of a verse in the Kalahavivādasutta of the Sutta Nipāta. Rūpesu disvā vibhavaṃ bhava˝ca, vinicchayaṃ kurute jantu loke. "Having seen the existence and destruction of material forms, a man in this world comes to a conclusion."
What is the conclusion? That there is an absolute existence and an absolute non-existence. One comes to this conclusion drawing an inference from the behaviour of visible objects. For instance, we could presume that this machine before us exists in an absolute sense, ignoring the causes and conditions underlying its existence. The day this machine is destroyed we would say: "It was, but now it is not."
The Buddha has pointed out that such absolute views of existence and non-existence are a result of an incorrect understanding about form. What actually is involved here is the perception of form. Due to a misconception about the perception of form, the world inclines towards the two extreme views of absolute existence and absolute non-existence.
So the whole point of our discussion today has been the clarification of the mutual interrelation between name and form, to show that name-and-form itself is only an image, or a shadow, reflected on consciousness.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.
"This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all preparations, the relinquishment of all assets, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction". With the permission of the Most Venerable Great Preceptor and the assembly of the venerable meditative monks.
This is the eleventh sermon in the series of sermons on Nibbāna. In our last sermon, we tried to explain that contact arises dependent on name-and-form, because form gets a verbal impression by the naming quality in name, and name gets a resistance-impression by the striking quality in form. In the context of this Dhamma, contact, properly so-called, is a combination of these two, namely verbal impression and resistance-impression.
We also happened to mention the other day a new etymological explanation given by the Buddha to the word rūpa, quoting the relevant passage from the Khajjanīyasutta of the Khandhasaṃyutta in the Saṃyutta Nikāya. He has defined the form group with reference to 'affectation': Ruppatīti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā rūpan'ti vuccati. "It is affected, monks, that is why it is called form. By what is it affected? By cold, heat, hunger, thirst, and the sting of gadflies, mosquitoes and the like."
While analysing the implications of this 'being affected', we mentioned that the form group could be compared to a wound. According to the commentarial exegesis, too, ruppati means to be adversely affected, to be afflicted, to come into conflict with, to be diseased and displeased. These are reminiscent of the responses usually associated with the person who has an easy lacerable wound. To say that a paṭighasamphassa arises because of this lacerable quality is therefore very apt.
The primary sense of the word paṭigha is 'striking against'. Perception of form arises as a result of an attempt to understand through the factors on the name side this particular striking against, which resembles the laceration of a wound. This perception of form, which follows in the wake of the feeling that arises when something strikes against form, is like the groping of a blind man in the dark. Generally, the worldling is in the habit of staring at the form that comes within his grasp, to ascertain its true nature. Likewise, he touches the form he sees with his eyes to verify it. As the saying goes: 'Seeing is believing, but touch is the real thing'.
But both these attempts are like the gropings of a blind man. The worldling is unable to get rid of his delusion completely by either of these methods. It is because he is accustomed to draw conclusions under the influence of his perception of the compact, ghanasa˝˝ā.
The fact that the two extreme views of existence and non-existence are also the outcome of this perception of the compact in regard to form, is borne out by the following two lines of the verse we quoted from the Kalahavivādasutta in our previous sermon. Rūpesu disvā vibhavaṃ bhava˝ca, vinicchayaṃ kurute jantu loke. "Having seen the existence and destruction of material forms, a man in this world comes to a conclusion."
The worldling has the idea that material forms have an absolute existence. This idea is the result of his perception of form. It is a perception arising out of his impression of that 'striking against'. Whatever the level of this perception of form be, it is not better than the impression of a blind man. The two extreme views of absolute existence and non-existence in the world are based on this kind of impression.
Various types of views and opinions current in the world regarding material forms and matter in general, are the outcome of the notion that they are absolutely real. There is a tendency in the worldling to presume that what he grasps with his hands and sees with his eyes exists absolutely. So a thing is said to exist for some length of time, before it gets destroyed. The logical conclusion, then, is that all things in the world exist absolutely and that at some point of time they get absolutely destroyed. This is how the two extreme views of absolute existence and absolute non-existence have arisen in this world. This is the outcome of a perception of form, which is tantamount to a pursuit of a mirage. It is an illusion.
The Buddha has declared, in the Jaṭāsutta, that where name-and-form as well as resistance and perception of form are cut off and surcease, there the entire saṃsāric problem, which amounts to a tangle within and a tangle without, is also conclusively solved. That this is so could be inferred to some extent from what we have discussed so far.
Nāma and rūpa, as well as paṭigha- and rūpasa˝˝ā, are highly significant terms. Paṭigha- and rūpasa˝˝ā are equivalent to paṭighasamphassa and adhivacanasamphassa respectively. Now as to this perception of form, it is basically conditioned by contact. That is why the Kalahavivādasutta states that contact is the cause of the two views of existence and non-existence.
In this Kalahavivādasutta one finds a series of questions and answers going deeper and deeper into the analysis of contact, step by step. The question phasso nu lokasmiṃ kutonidāno, "what is the cause of contact in this world?"; gets the answer nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca paṭicca phasso, "dependent on name-and-form is contact". The next question is: Kismiṃ vibhūte na phussanti phassā, "in the absence of what, do contacts not bring about contact", or, "touches do not touch?" It gets the answer: Rūpe vibhūte na phusanti phassā, "in the absence of form, contacts do not bring about contact".
The question that comes up next, and the answer given, are extremely important. They lead to a deep analysis of the Dhamma, so much so that both verses deserve to be quoted in full. The question is:
Kathaṃsametassa vibhoti rūpaṃ,
sukhaṃ dukhaṃ vā pi kathaṃ vibhoti,
etaṃ me pabrūhi yathā vibhoti,
taṃ jāniyāmā iti me mano ahu.
"To one constituted in which manner does form cease to exist,
Or, how even pleasure and pain cease to exist,
Do tell me how all these become non-existent,
Let us know this, such a thought arose in me."
The answer to this question is couched in this extraordinary verse:
Na sa˝˝asa˝˝ī na visa˝˝asa˝˝ī,
no pi asa˝˝ī na vibhūtasa˝˝ī,
evaṃ sametassa vibhoti rūpaṃ,
sa˝˝ānidānā hi papa˝casaṅkhā.
What this verse purports to describe is the state of a person for whom form as also pleasure and pain has ceased to exist. He is not one with normal perception, nor is he one with abnormal perception. He is not non-percipient, nor has he rescinded perception. It is to one constituted in this manner that form ceases to exist, for, papa˝casaṅkhā - whatever they may be - have perception as their source.
The meaning of this verse needs to be clarified further. According to the MahāNiddesa, the allusion in this verse is to one who is on the path to the formless realms, having attained the first four absorptions. The commentary is forced to that conclusion, because it takes the phrase na vibhūtasa˝˝ī as negating formless realms as such. The assumption is that the person referred to is neither conscious with normal perception, nor abnormally unconscious, nor devoid of perception, as in the attainment of cessation, nor in one of the formless attainments. So then, the only possibility seemed to be to identify it with some intermediate state. That is why the MahāNiddesa and the other commentaries interpret this problematic state as that of one who is on the path to formless attainments, arūpamaggasamaṅgi.
However, considerations of context and presentation would lead to a different conclusion. The extraordinary state alluded to by this verse seems to be a surpamundane one, which goes far deeper than the so-called intermediate state. The transcendence of form, indicated here, is more radical than the transcendence in attaining to formless states. It is a transcendence at a supramundane level, as we may well infer from the last line of the verse, sa˝˝ānidānā hi papa˝casaṅkhā. Papa˝casaṅkhā is a term which has a relevance to insight meditation and the denouement of the sutta is also suggestive of such a background. The Kalahavivādasutta, consisting of sixteen verses, is, from beginning to end, a network of deep questions and answers leading to levels of insight. The opening verse, for instance, states the initial problem as follows:
Kuto pahūtā kalahā vivādā,
paridevasokā sahamaccharā ca,
mānātimānā saha pesuṇā ca,
kuto pahūtā te tad iṅgha brūhi.
"Whence do spring up contentions and disputes,
Lamentations, sorrows and envies,
And arrogance together with slander,
Whence do they spring up, pray tell me this."
It is in answer to this basic question that this discourse gradually unfolds itself. In accordance with the law of dependent arising, the cause of contentions and disputes is said to be the tendency to hold things dear, piyappahūtā kalahā vivādā. Then the question is about the cause of this idea of holding things dear. The cause of it is said to be desire, chandanidānāni piyāni loke. Things dear originate from desire. Desire, or interest, makes things 'dear'.
The next question is: What is the origin of desire? Desire is traced to the distinction between the pleasant and the unpleasant. It is in reply to the question regarding the origin of this distinction between the pleasant and the unpleasant that contact is brought in. In fact, it is the question as to the origin of contact, phasso nu lokasmiṃ kuto nidāno, which formed the starting point of our discussion. The answer to that question is name-and-form, nāma˝ca rūpa˝ca. So in this chain of causes, the link that comes next to contact is name-and-form.
Now the verse in question beginning with na sa˝˝asa˝˝ī goes deeper than name-and-form. Even the question about contact has a peculiar wording: Kismiṃ vibhūte na phusanti phassā, "When what is not there, do touches not touch?" The question, then, is not just the cessation of contact as such. The answer, too, has the same peculiarity. Rūpe vibhūte na phusanti phassā, "It is when form is not there that touches do not touch". It is the subsequent question regarding form that brings out the cryptic verse as the answer.
All this goes to show that the verse in question alludes to a supramundane state far transcending the formless or any supposed intermediate stage. The transcendence of pleasure and pain, as well as perception of form, is implied here. The verse beginning with na sa˝˝asa˝˝ī brings the entire analytical disquisition to a climax. It comes as the thirteenth verse in the series. Usually, such a disquisition leads up to a climax, highlighting Nibbāna. It is obvious, therefore, that the reference here is to the Nibbānic mind.
We have here four negations: Na sa˝˝asa˝˝ī - na visa˝˝asa˝˝ī - no pi asa˝˝ī - na vibhūtasa˝˝ī. These four negations insinuate a strange supramundane level of perception. In short, it is an attempt to analyse the crux of the Dhamma in terms of perception. As to the provocation for such an approach, we may remind ourselves of the fact that, according to the Buddha, release from materiality amounted to a release from the perception of form. Here, we have something really deep.
As it was stated in the Jaṭāsutta, for the disentangling of the tangle, name-and-form, resistance and perception of form, have to be cut off. This last mentioned perception of form, or rūpasa˝˝ā, is highly significant. Before the advent of the Buddha the general belief, even among ascetics, was that, in order to be free from form, one has to attain to the formless, arūpa, But, as we pointed out in an earlier sermon, this kind of approach to the question of freedom from form, is like the attempt of one who, having imagined a ghost in the darkness of the night, runs away to escape it. He is simply taking the fantasy of the ghost with him.
Likewise, perception of form is already implicit in the formless. What has been done is only a pushing away of the perception of form with the help of saṅkhāras. It is merely a suppression of form through the power of absorption. It does not amount to a cessation of the perception of form.
What, then, is the message the Buddha gave to the world regarding the abandonment by way of eradication? He pointed out that freedom from form can be won only by comprehending a certain deep normative principle behind perception. Till then, one keeps on going round and round in saṃsāra. Even if one breaks away from form to stay for aeons in formless realms, one swings back to form at the end of that period. Why? Because the ghost of form still haunts the formless. It is precisely because of this fact that pre-Buddhistic ascetics could not free themselves from the round of existence.
The Kalahavivādasutta as a whole, could be regarded as an extremely deep analysis of the basis of the two views of existence and non-existence. Our departure from the MahāNiddesa in regard to the interpretation of this discourse might sometimes be called in question. But let the wise judge its reasonableness on its own merits.
According to our interpretation so far, the thirteenth verse marks the climax of the discourse, with its allusion to Nibbāna. This is obvious from the fourteenth verse, in which the questioner confesses: Yaṃ taṃ apucchimha akittayī no, a˝˝aṃ taṃ pucchāma tad iṅgha brūhi. "Whatever we have asked you, that you have explained to us. Now we wish to ask you something else, pray, give us an answer to that too."
The question now posed is this: Ettāvataggaṃ nu vadanti h'eke, yakkhassa suddhiṃ idha paṇḍitāse, udāhu a˝˝am pi vadanti etto? "Do some, who are reckoned as wise men here, declare the highest purity of the soul with this much alone, or else do they posit something beyond this?" The interlocutor is trying to get the solution restated in terms of the two views of existence and non-existence. The term yakkha is used in this context in the sense of an individual soul. It betrays an assumption based on a wrong view. The question concerns the purity of the individual soul. The interlocutor wants to ascertain whether wise men in the world declare this state as the highest purity of the soul, or whether they go beyond this in postulating something more. Here is an attempt to get the answer already given restated in terms of the soul theory, a sort of anti-climax. The two concluding verses that follow, give the lie to this presumptuous question.
Ettāvataggaṃ pi vadanti h'eke
yakkhassa suddhiṃ idha paṇḍitāse,
tesaṃ paneke samayaṃ vadanti
anupādisese kusalā vadānā.
"Some, who are regarded as wise men here,
Call this itself the highest purity of the individual soul,
But there are again some among them, who speak of an annihilation,
Claiming to be experts in the cessation without residue."
Ete ca ˝atvā upanissitā ti
˝atvā munī nissaye so vimaṃsī,
˝atvā vimutto na vivādam eti
bhavābhavāya na sameti dhīro.
"Knowing that they are dependent on speculative views,
The sage with discernment, with regard to whatever is speculative,
Emancipated as he is through understanding, does not enter into dispute,
A truly wise man does not fall back either on existence or on non-existence."
The concluding verse amounts to a refutation of both these extreme views. The truly wise sage, who is released with proper discernment of the nature of dogmatic involvement, has no disputes with those who are at loggerheads with each other on the issue of existence and non-existence. This, in effect, means that Nibbāna as a goal avoids both extremes of eternalism and nihilism.
The Upasīvasutta in the Pārāyanavagga of the Sutta Nipāta provides further proof of the plausibility of the above interpretation. There, Nibbāna as the cessation of consciousness in the arahant, is compared to the extinction of a flame.
Accī yathā vātavegena khitto
atthaṃ paleti na upeti saṅkhaṃ
evaṃ munī nāmakāyā vimutto
atthaṃ paleti na upeti saṅkhaṃ.
"As flame flung on by force of wind,
Reaches its end, comes not within reckoning,
So the sage, released from name-and-form,
Reaches his end, comes not within reckoning."
When a flame goes out, it cannot be reckoned as having gone in any of the directions, like north, east, south, and west. All what can be said about it, is that it has gone out.
Even after the Buddha has given this reply, the brahmin youth Upasīva, entrenched as he is in the eternalist view, raises a question which is similar to the one already quoted. He, too, is trying to understand it in terms of the two extreme views of existence and non-existence.
Atthaṃgato so uda vā so natthi
udāhu ve sassatiyā arogo,
taṃ me munī sādhu viyākarohi,
tathā hi te vidito esa dhammo.
"Has he reached his end, or is he no more,
Or is he eternally well,
That to me, sage, in full explain,
For this Dhamma is well within your ken."
In the discourses we find similar instances of attempts to determine, in terms of those two extreme views, even a conclusive statement of the Buddha on the question of Nibbāna. Yet another instance is found in the Poṭṭhapādasutta of the Dīghanikāya. There the Buddha outlines the path to Nibbāna from the point of view of perception. The discourse, therefore, is one that highlights the importance of the term sa˝˝ā. In that discourse, the path of training leading to Nibbāna is introduced under the heading anupubbābhisa˝˝ānirodha-sampajāna-samāpatti, "the attainment, with full awareness, to the gradual cessation of higher levels of perception".
What is significant in this particular context, is that the invitation for this exposition came from the ascetics of other sects. In response to their request to enlighten them on the subject of the cessation of higher levels of perception, abhisa˝˝ānirodha, the Buddha gave quite a long account of the course of training required for it. But at the end of that deep exposition, the wandering ascetic Poṭṭhapāda raises the following question: Sa˝˝ā nu kho purisassa attā, udāhu a˝˝ā sa˝˝ā a˝˝ā attā? "Is perception a man's soul, or is perception something and soul another?" This is typical of their bigotted attitude, which prevented them from understanding this Dhamma, free from the soul prejudice.
We went so far as to bring out all this evidence, because the point at issue is fairly important. Even the attempt of the MahāNiddesa to explain the verse beginning with na sa˝˝asa˝˝ī is far from conclusive. It is not at all likely that the ascetics of other sects subscribed to a view that the intermediate stage between the fourth absorption and the first formless absorption is equivalent to the purest state of the soul. Such an interim state is of no account.
As we go on, we might come across further proof of the tenability of this interpretation. The verse beginning with na sa˝˝asa˝˝ī is not easily forgotten, because of its unusual accent on the negative particle. We might have to hark back to it when we come across similar discourses dealing with Nibbāna. Till then, let us remind ourselves of two similes we have already given, in order to get a foretaste of the significance of this problematic verse.
Firstly, the Buddha's simile of the magic show as an illustration for consciousness in the Pheṇapiṇḍūpamasutta - māyūpama˝ca vi˝˝āṇaṃ. While describing the five groups, he compares consciousness to a magical performance at crossroads, conducted by a magician or his apprentice. A man with the right type of vision, watching this magic show, understands that it is empty, hollow and void of essence. It is as if he has seen through the tricks and deceptions of the magician.
While watching a magic show, the audience in general reacts to it with gaping mouths and exclamations. But how would a man with radical attention and penetrative wisdom, who is fully aware of the tricks of the magician, watch a magic show? He is simply looking on with a vacant gaze.
This reminds us of the significance of the word vi˝˝āṇaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ. That gaze is 'endless', anantaṃ, in the sense that it does not have the magic show as its object. It goes beyond. It is also 'non-manifestative', anidassanaṃ, since the magic show does not manifest itself, as it has now been penetrated through with wisdom. This wisdom is revealing in its 'all lustrous' nature, sabbato pabhaṃ, so much so that the tricks are seen - through.
So this man with discernment is watching with a vacant gaze. Now how would such a person appear to one who is deluded and enchanted by the magic show? The latter might regard the former as an inattentive spectator who misses the magic show. Or else, he might think that the other is out of his senses, or insensate.
What the riddle verse beginning with na sa˝˝asa˝˝ī refers to, is such a vacant gaze. That is to say, the person referred to is not one with the ordinary worldling's perception, which is deluded, nor has he fainted and become unconscious, na sa˝˝asa˝˝ī na visa˝˝asa˝˝ī. He is not in a trance, devoid of perception, no pi asa˝˝ī, nor has he put and end to perception, na vibhūtasa˝˝ī. What these four negations highlight, is that vacant gaze of the one who is emancipated through wisdom.
Somewhat on the lines of the simile used by the Buddha, we might reintroduce, as a flashback, the simile of the cinema. Though it has a modernistic flavour, it could perhaps be more easily understood. Let us suppose that a matinee show of a technicolour film is in progress with closed doors and windows. Suddenly, by some technical defect, the doors and windows are flung open. What would be the change of perspective in the spectator now? He, too, would be looking on with a vacant gaze. Though still the show is going on, he is no longer seeing it. A sort of 'cessation' has occurred, at least temporarily.
The theme as well as the objective of all our sermons is expressed in the quotation beginning with "This is peaceful, this is excellent" (etc.), which forms the rubric, as it were, for each sermon. The change that occurs in the spectator now, is somewhat reminiscent of it. Though not all preparations, at least those preparations connected with the film show are momentarily 'stilled'. Whatever assets in the form of the bundle of experiences on which the film show is evalued, are 'relinquished'. The craving or the desire for the show has gone down. The colourful show has 'faded away', making way for detachment. The film show has 'ceased' for him. It is also extinct for him, since his burning desire has cooled off now. In this way, we can understand the four puzzling negations in that riddle verse as an attempt to describe the vacant gaze of this spectator, and that man with discernment at the magic show.