§14. Activityless-ness is the end point of the world, beyond supposing and formulation.
saccanam caturo pada
The four Noble Truths -- suffering, its cause, its cessation, and the path to its cessation -- are activities in that each truth has an aspect that has to be done: Suffering has to be understood, its cause abandoned, its cessation made clear, and the path to its cessation developed. All of these are aspects that have to be done -- and if they have to be done, they must be activities. So we can conclude that all four truths are activities. This is in keeping with the first verse quoted above, which speaks of the four truths as feet, stair treads, or steps that must be taken for the task to be finished. What follows is thus termed activityless-ness -- like writing the numerals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0, then erasing 1-9, leaving just 0, and not writing anything more. What is left is read as 'zero,' but it doesn't have any value at all. You can't use it to add, subtract, multiply, or divide with any other numerals, yet at the same time you can't say that it doesn't exist, for there it is: 0 (zero).
kkinasava jutimanto te loke parinibbuta
This is like the discernment that knows all around, because it destroys the activity of supposing. In other words, it erases supposing completely and doesn't become involved with or hold on to any supposings at all. With the words 'erasing' or 'destroying' the activity of supposing, the question arises, 'When supposing is entirely destroyed, where will we stay?' The answer is that we will stay in a place that isn't supposed: right there with activityless-ness.
This explanation is in line with the aspects of reality that appear clearly only to those who practice, and that people who don't practice can't know. Only when we listen and then practice accordingly until we see and know of our own accord will we be able to understand.
The meaning of the next verse is this: 'Those who have no more effluents extinguish the three realms and are dazzling.' In other words, they have practiced persistence and made an investigation 'bhavito bahulikato.' In other words, they have worked at it and developed it repeatedly to the point where the mind has the strength capable of analyzing and destroying all supposings so as to reach activityless-ness. They can thus gain release from the three realms.
In extinguishing the three realms, arahants don't fly up into the realms of sensuality, form, and formlessness. They stay right where they are. The same was true of the Buddha: When he extinguished the three realms, he was sitting in one spot, under the Bodhi tree. He didn't fly up into the three realms. He extinguished them at the mind -- for right there in the mind is where the three realms exist.
Those who aim at extinguishing the three realms should thus extinguish them in their own hearts. Only then will they obliterate activity -- the act of supposing -- from the heart, leaving just activityless-ness. This is the primal heart, the primal Dhamma, which knows no death.
§15. The nine abodes of living beings.
The realms of the heavenly beings, the human realm, and the realms of destitution (apaya) are classed as the sensual realm, the abode of living beings who indulge in sensuality. Taken together, they count as one. The realms of form, the abodes of living beings who have attained rupa jhana, are four. The realms of formlessness, the abodes of living beings who have attained arupa jhana, are also four. So altogether there are nine abodes for living beings. Those -- the arahants -- who are wise to the nine abodes leave them and don't have to live in any of them. This appears in the last of the Novice's Questions (samanera-panha), 'dasa nama kim' -- What is ten? -- which is answered. 'dasahangehi samaññagato arahati vuccati ti' -- The arahant, one who is endowed with ten qualities, gains release from the nine abodes of living beings. This can be compared to writing the numerals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. 1 to 9 are numbers that can be counted, named, added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided. As for ten -- 1 and 0 (zero) -- when we erase the 1, because it's a repetition, we are left with 0 (zero). If we use 0 to add, subtract, multiply, or divide with any other number, it won't increase the value of that number; and 0 by itself has no value at all -- but you can't say that it doesn't exist, because there it is. The same is true with the heart: It's a nature whose attributes are like 0. When 0 is connected to any other number, it greatly increases the value of that number. For instance, 1 connected with 0 becomes 10. So it is with the heart. When connected with anything, it instantly proliferates into things elaborate and fantastic. But when trained until it is wise and discerning with regard to all knowable phenomena, it returns to its state as 0 (zero) -- empty, open, and clear, beyond all counting and naming. It doesn't stay in the nine places that are abodes for living beings. Instead, it stays in a place devoid of supposing and formulation: its inherent nature as 0 (zero), or activityless-ness, as mentioned in § 14.
§16. The significance of the first sermon, the middle sermon, and the final sermon.
The sermons delivered by the Lord Buddha at three points in his career have a great significance to which Buddhists should give special thought and consideration.
A. At the beginning of the Buddha's career he delivered a sermon to the five brethren at the forest in the Deer Park at Isipatana near Benares. This was his first sermon, called the Wheel of Dhamma. He started with the two extremes that those who have gone forth from the household life should not indulge in, saying,
dveme bhikkhave anta pabbajitena na sevitabba:
'Monks, there are these two extremes that those who have gone forth from the household life should not pursue: indulgence in sensual pleasure and indulgence in self--affliction.' To explain: Indulgence in sensual pleasure lies on the side of love; indulgence in self-affliction, on the side of hate. Both sides are causes of suffering and stress. When we practice self-purification and yet fall into either of these two sides, we can't be said to have entered the middle way, for when we are making a persistent effort to practice and the mind becomes fully calm and relaxed, we are pleased; when the mind thinks and becomes restless and distracted, we are displeased. Being pleased is indulgence in pleasure; being displeased, indulgence in self-affliction. Being pleased is passion, being displeased is aversion, and not being wise to passion and aversion is delusion.
Whoever makes an effort to develop persistence in concentration has to start out by running into these two extremes. If we run into these extremes, we are classed as wrong, but it is only normal that we be wrong before we can be right. Even the Buddha, before his Awakening, was completely wrong in just the same way. Even his two foremost disciples were wrong -- and held pernicious doctrines to boot. All the other disciples started out wrong from the beginning as well. But when the Buddha came to follow the middle way while meditating under the shade of the Bodhi tree, after having gained the first two knowledges -- remembrance of previous lifetimes and knowledge of the death and rebirth of living beings -- in the first two watches of the night, he gained the third knowledge -- knowledge of the ending of mental effluents -- in the watch toward dawn. This was when he found the genuine middle way, releasing his mind from the error of the two extremes. Released from the clan, class, abodes, lineage, and legacy of convention and supposing, he attained the clan, class, abode, lineage, and legacy of the Noble Ones. The Noble Disciples came to know following the Buddha, acting correctly in line with the knowledge of the ending of mental effluents, and gained release from error just as he had.
As for us as meditators, in the very beginning it is only normal that we will have to be wrong. As long as we let ourselves be pleased and displeased in the development of merit and wisdom, we fall under the sway of the ways of the world (lokadhamma), and when we are under the sway of the ways of the world, we are shaken by pleasure and displeasure. This is called being shaken back and forth.
uppanno kho me:
Where do the ways of the world arise? In ourselves. The ways of the world have eight factors, and the path that cures them has eight as well. The eightfold path is the cure for the eight ways of the world. Thus the Buddha taught the middle way as the cure for the two extremes.
Once we have cured ourselves of the two extremes, we enter the noble path, cutting across the currents of the world, making the mind cago patinissaggo mutti analayo -- relinquish, release, and rest easy.
To summarize: As long as the two extremes still exist in your heart, you are not on the right track. But when your heart gains release from the two extremes, you become unshakable: free from impurities and safe from the flood. This is why the meaning of the Wheel of Dhamma is very significant. When the Buddha explained the Wheel of Dhamma, it caused the elements of the world to tremble. And when the message is so significant, how could they help but tremble? The elements of the world are nothing else but this very body of ours. Our body is composed of the world's elements and it trembles because the mind sees into something it has never seen before. The fact that the mind is released from the two extremes is what causes the elements of the world to tremble. They tremble because the mind is not coming back to give rise to them ever again.
B. At the mid-point of the Buddha's career he delivered the Patimokkha Exhortation to an assembly of 1,250 arahants at the Squirrels' Feeding Grounds in the Royal Bamboo Grove near Rajagaha. One of the important points was,
adhicitte ca ayogo etam buddhana-sasanam:
'Heighten the mind: That is the teaching of the Buddhas.' To heighten the mind, we have to be calm and at peace.
iccha lobha-samapanno samano kim bhavissati:
'When we are endowed with desire -- greedy, struggling, and deluded -- how can we be calm and at peace?' We need to practice by following the discipline as our starting point and by developing our meditation theme, beginning with walking and sitting meditation. We must work at our contemplation of the great frames of reference and develop it repeatedly, starting by keeping track of the body as our frame of reference. At first we should contemplate the parts of the body by means of parikamma savana, i.e., by means of conjecture -- that this part is like that, and that is like this -- because if we do this mindfully, with self-awareness, the mind won't wander far from the body and will settle down easily. When we practice parikamma savana repeatedly, an uggaha nimitta will arise. We should then master that stage until we reach patibhaga, analyzing the vision into its parts. When we master patibhaga fully, it will turn into insight meditation. We then develop insight meditation to its highest degree so that the mind will reach thitibhutam, as discussed in the strategies of clear insight. This is what is meant by 'practice.' When we have practiced,
We will cross over and beyond. It is because of the practices that we have done to completion that we will cross over and beyond -- i.e., beyond the world. This is what is meant by the transcendent dhammas.
We will gain relief from bondage.
Thus the message of the middle sermon is significant because it aims at release.
C. At the end of his career, when he was about to enter total nibbana, the Buddha delivered his final sermon in the midst of a gathering of Noble Disciples in the Royal Sala Grove of the Mallian gentry of Kusinara, saying, handadani amantayami vo bhikkhave, pativediyami vo bhikkhave, khaya-vaya-dhamma sankhara, appamadena sampadetha: 'I say to you, monks, do not be complacent. Contemplate fashionings that arise and then decay. When you contemplate in this manner, you will penetrate completely. ' That was all he said and he never said anything further. This is thus said to be his final sermon.
To explain the meaning: Where do fashionings arise? What are fashionings? Fashionings arise in our own minds. They are an effect or condition of the mind that gives rise to all supposings. These fashionings are the culprits that suppose and formulate everything in the world. Actually, the things of the world -- in their elementary properties as phenomena -- are simply the way they are. Earth, trees, mountains, sky, and sunshine don't say that they are anything at all. Even the human body, which is also composed of the world's elements, doesn't say that it is this or that. Mental fashioning is the culprit that styles these things as being this or that -- and we fall for what it says as being true, holding that all these things are ours or ourselves. Passion, aversion, and delusion thus arise, causing the primal mind to stray deludedly after birth, aging, illness, and death, circling around endlessly through innumerable states of becoming and birth -- all through the instigation of mental fashioning.
This is why the Buddha taught us to contemplate mental fashionings as inconstant and stressful:
sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha.
We keep at this until we see them with full and clear comprehension -- which arises as the fruit of having earlier developed patibhaga -- to the point where the mind enters the bhavanga, its underlying state. When the current of the bhavanga disappears, a genuinely intuitive understanding will arise right at the heart: 'That's just how they are -- inconstant and stressful.' When we master this and see it clearly and distinctly, we will then be wise to mental fashionings. Mental fashionings will no longer be able to fashion the mind into becoming aroused ever again, as stated in the verse,
akuppam sabba-dhammesu neyyadhamma pavessanto:
When mental fashioning can no longer fashion the mind, the mind doesn't become aroused. It is wise to all knowable dhammas,
and thus calm and at peace, reaching release.
The words of this final sermon are truly significant. They can make the person who contemplates them awaken to the ultimate degree -- which is why the Buddha stopped speaking and said no more.
The sermons given at these three points in the Buddha's career have a significance over and beyond that of any other he ever gave. The first sermon aims at release, the middle sermon aims at release, the final sermon aims at release. In this way all three of them without exception aim at nothing but release.
§17. Arahants of every sort attain both release through concentration and release through discernment, having developed the threefold training to completion.
anasavam ceto-vimuttim pañña-vimuttim
'They dwell without effluent, having entered the release through concentration and release through discernment realized and verified by themselves in the very present.'
dittheva dhamme sayam abhiñña sacchikatva
This passage from the Canon shows that arahants of no matter what sort reach both release through concentration and release through discernment, free from effluents in the present. No distinctions are made, saying that this or that group reaches release only through concentration or only through discernment. The explanation given by the Commentators -- that release through concentration pertains to those arahants who develop concentration first, while release through discernment pertains to the 'dry insight' arahants, who develop insight exclusively without having first developed concentration -- runs counter to the path. The eightfold path includes both Right View and Right Concentration. A person who is to gain release has to develop all eight factors of the path. Otherwise he or she won't be able to gain release. The threefold training includes both concentration and discernment. A person who is to attain knowledge of the ending of mental effluents has to develop all three parts of the threefold training completely.
This is why we say that arahants of every sort have to reach both release through concentration and release through discernment .
Anusaya: Latent tendency -- sensual passion, irritation, views, doubt, pride, passion for states of becoming, and unawareness .
Apaya: State of deprivation; the four lowest levels of existence -- rebirth in hell, as a hungry shade, as an angry demon, or as a common animal.
Arahant: A person whose heart is freed from mental effluents (see asava) and is thus not destined for further rebirth .
Arupa jhana: Meditative absorption in a non-physical object .
Asava: Mental effluent -- sensuality, states of becoming, and unawareness.
Avijja: Unawareness, ignorance, counterfeit knowledge.
Dhamma: Event; phenomenon; the way things are in and of themselves; their inherent qualities; the basic principles underlying their behavior. Also, principles of behavior that human beings ought to follow so as to fit in with the right natural order of things; qualities of mind they should develop so as to realize the inherent quality of the mind in and of itself. By extension, 'Dhamma' is used also to refer to any doctrine that teaches such things.
Dhatu: Element; property; potential. The four physical properties are those of earth (solidity), water (liquidity), fire (heat), and wind (energy or motion).
Khandha: Component parts of sensory perception: rupa (physical phenomena); vedana (feelings of pleasure, pain, or indifference); Sañña (concepts, labels, allusions); sankhara (mental fashionings, formations, processes); and viññana (cognizance, consciousness).
Lokadhamma: Ways of the world -- fortune, loss, praise, blame, status, disgrace, pleasure, and pain.
Nibbana: Liberation; the unbinding of the mind from passion, aversion, and delusion, and thus from the round of death and rebirth.
Nivarana: Hindrances to concentration -- sensual desire, ill will, torpor & lethargy, restlessness & anxiety, and uncertainty.
Ogha: Flood; factors that sweep the mind along the round of death and rebirth -- sensuality, states of becoming, and unawareness.
Patibhaga: The manipulation of visions that appear in meditation.
Rupa jhana: Meditative absorption in a physical object or sensation.
Satipatthana: Frame of reference; foundation of mindfulness -- body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities.
Uggaha nimitta: An image appearing spontaneously during meditation.
Upakkilesa: Mental corruption or defilement -- passion, aversion, and delusion in their various forms.