Parts of this
analysis of the Triple Gem were originally used to teach new
monks here at the temple and have been printed twice in book
form. Now that a group of people who feel that the book would
be beneficial to Buddhists at large have pooled their
resources and asked permission to print it a third time, I
have decided to expand it into a handbook for all Buddhist
adherents -- i.e., for all who have declared the Buddha,
Dhamma, and Sangha to be their refuge. Once we have made such
a declaration, we are duty-bound to learn exactly what the
Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are. Otherwise, we will follow our
religion blindly, without realizing its aims or the benefits
-- called 'puñña,' or merit -- that come from its practice,
inasmuch as Buddhism is a religion of self-help.
as Thai people are known throughout the world as Buddhists,
but my feeling is that there are very few of us who know the
standards of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. Although many of
us are 'Buddhist,' we are Buddhist mostly through custom, not
through informed awareness.
are two ways of adhering to the religion: rationally and
irrationally. To adhere to the religion irrationally means to
adhere to it blindly, following one's teachers or companions,
holding to whatever they say is good without showing any
interest as to whether it really is good or not. This is like
a person of no discernment who uses whatever paper money comes
his way: If it turns out to be counterfeit, he'll be punished
and fined in a variety of ways. This is what it means to
adhere to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha irrationally.
To adhere to the
religion rationally means not to follow one's own prejudices
or those of one's teachers or companions, but to follow the
principles of the texts; holding to the Dhamma-Vinaya as one's
standard, like a legal document affixed with the government
seal, carrying the force of law throughout the land, making
exceptions for no one. Whoever then transgresses the law can't
be regarded as a good citizen. So it is with the religion: If
we want to know if a practice is good or bad, right or wrong,
worthy of respect or not, we should check it against the
standards established by the Buddha, which are eight in
number: Any behavior that --
2. leads to the compounding of suffering,
3. leads to the accumulation of defilement,
4. leads to over-weaning ambition,
5. leads to discontent with what one has -- i.e.,
having this, one wants that (greed that goes beyond
6. leads to socializing (of the wrong sort),
7. leads to laziness,
8. leads one to be burdensome to others:
None of these
eight forms of behavior qualify as the doctrine or discipline
of Buddhism. Once we know that these forms of behavior are not
what the Buddha intended, we should abandon them completely.
Thus, all of us
who respect the Buddha's teachings should -- instead of
working at cross-purposes -- join our hearts to cleanse and
correct the practice of the religion. Monks, novices, lay men,
and lay women should make a point of helping one another in
the area of reform. Whatever is already good, we should
maintain with respect. Whatever isn't, we should exert
pressure to improve. We'll then meet with what's truly good,
like rice: If you cook good, clean, husked white rice, you'll
eat with pleasure. If you cook unhusked rice, or a potful of
husks, they'll stick in your own throat. If we let any bad
factions go uncorrected, they will burden the hearts of their
supporters, who will become like people who cook rice husks to
eat. Are we going to let one another be so stupid as to eat
By and large,
though, most lay people don't see this as their duty. As for
the monks and novices, they throw the responsibility on the
lay people, and so we do nothing but keep throwing it back and
forth like this. When things have a bearing on all of us, we
should by all means unite our hearts and accept joint
responsibility. Only things that have no bearing on us should
we leave to others. Unless we act in this way, what is good --
the religion -- will fall from our grasp. And when the
religion falls from our grasp, lay men (upasaka) will
become obstacles (upasak), i.e., they'll keep creating
obstacles in the way of finding merit. Lay women (upasika)
will become the color of crows (sika), i.e., dark and
evil in their behavior. Novices will become sham novices,
careless, spattered, and filthy; and monks (phra) will
become goats (phae), missing out on the flavor of the
Dhamma, like the nanny goat who has to go hungry because her
milk has been taken and drunk by people more intelligent than
she. In India, for instance, there are hardly any monks left
to make merit with.
Monks are the
important faction, because they are the front-line troops or
standard-bearers in the fight with the enemy -- evil.
Ordinarily, soldiers have to adhere to the code of their army
and to be sincere in performing their duties. As for the
duties enjoined by the religion, they are two:
Gantha-dhura: studying the scriptures. Once we know the
scriptures, though, we can't stop there. We have to put them
into practice, because the level of study is simply
knowledge on the level of plans and blueprints. If we don't
follow the blueprints, we won't receive the benefits to be
gained from our knowledge. And when we don't gain the
benefits, we're apt to discard the texts, like a doctor who
knows the formula for a medicine but doesn't use it to cure
any patients. The medicine won't show any benefits, and this
will cause him to go looking for a living in other ways,
discarding any interest to pursue that formula further.
Thus, putting the scriptures into practice is one way of
preserving them, for once we have put them into practice and
seen the results arising within us -- i.e., our own bad
qualities begin to wane -- we will appreciate the value of
the scriptures and try to keep them intact. This is like a
doctor who is able to use a medicine to cure a fever and so
will preserve the formula because of its use in making a
living. Thus, the Lord Buddha set out a further duty, in the
area of practice, for those who are ordained:
Vipassana-dhura: the practice of tranquillity and
insight meditation. These two practices are our primary
duties as monks and novices. If we don't devote ourselves to
these two lines of practice, we'll become a fifth column
within the religion, enemies of the good standards of the
Dhamma and Vinaya. Monks will become political monks,
war-making monks, loudspeaker monks -- loudspeaker monks are
those who can teach others but can't teach themselves. They
can speak Dhamma, but their hearts have no Dhamma, and so
they become the enemies of those who practice the Dhamma and
Vinaya rightly and well.
Thus I ask all
Buddhists not to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to these
problems. If we hold that it's none of our business, the
consequences could well flare up and spread to burn us. For
this reason, I ask that we all help one another to look after
human beings born need a set of customs and traditions --
called religion -- to which they give special respect.
Otherwise, we will have no principles of good and evil or of
moral virtue. Whatever religion this may be is up to the
individual adherents. I ask only that they respect their
religion sincerely and rightly, for the sake of true purity.
If we were to use
only worldly knowledge to keep order, it would work only in
public places. In private or secret places, order wouldn't
last. But as for religion, once people have studied so that
they really know good and evil, they wouldn't dare do evil,
either in public or in private. Religion is thus one of the
important mainstays of the world. If we human beings had no
moral virtue imbedded in our hearts, even the greatest power
on earth would be able to keep us in line only temporarily,
and even then it wouldn't be able to influence our minds the
way the moral virtue that comes from religion can. For this
reason, the practice of moral virtue is one way of helping the
religion and the world.
Now, I'm not
claiming to be a heavenly being or anyone special. I'm simply
a person who wishes the religion well. So if anything in this
book is defective -- in terms of the expression or the Pali --
I hope that knowledgeable people will forgive me, for it's not
the case that I'm expert in a wide range of matters.
Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
Wat Paa Khlawng
(The Shrimp Canal Forest Monastery)
Buddham saranam gacchami:
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
the world to experience happiness and harmony, there has to be
a teaching or tradition generally respected as good. This
being the case, Bodhisattvas arise -- people who develop
goodness on the grand scale for the sake of attaining right
self-awakening. Once they have reached this goal, they are
termed 'Buddhas,' Awakened Ones. For Bodhisattvas to succeed
in this direction, they have to devote themselves to
perfecting ten virtues --
2 Sila-parami: morality.
3 Nekkhamma-parami: renunciation of sensuality
(and of the household life).
4 Pañña-parami: the search for discernment.
5 Viriya-parami: persistence.
6 Khanti-parami: endurance, patience.
7 Sacca-parami: truthfulness.
8 Adhitthana-parami: determination.
9 Metta-parami: benevolence.
10 Upekkha-parami: equanimity (in proper
cases, i.e., in areas that are beyond one's control).
perfections are the factors that enable a Bodhisattva to
succeed in becoming an Arahant, a Pure One. Once he attains
this state, three qualities -- called 'actualized virtues' --
arise in his heart:
Pañña-guna: sharp discernment.
Karunadhiguna: compassion for living beings
throughout the world.
enable the Buddha to teach the Dhamma in a beneficial way. His
conduct in this area is of three sorts: Having achieved his
own purposes (attattha-cariya), he acts for the benefit
of living beings throughout the world (lokattha-cariya)
and teaches the Dhamma to his own circle of relatives (ñatattha-cariya).
There are three
aspects to the Buddha:
physical aspect -- the body (elements, aggregates (khandha),
and sense media), which is the external aspect of the
Buddha, called 'Buddha-nimitta,' or the symbol of the
Buddha. (This is like the bark of a tree.)
good practices he followed -- such as virtue, concentration,
and discernment, which are aspects of his activity. These
are called 'dhamma-nimitta' of the Buddha, symbols of
his inner quality. (These are the sapwood.)
Vimutti -- release from ignorance, craving, attachment,
and kamma; attaining nibbana, the supreme quality, a quality
that does not die (amata-dhamma). (This is the
heartwood, or essence of the Buddha.)
A person of
little intelligence will use bark to build himself a home; a
person of medium intelligence will use sapwood; while a person
of sharp intelligence will build his home of heartwood. So it
is with those of us who take refuge in the Buddha. But in any
case we're better off than people without a home. Like rats or
lizards who have to live in the hollows of trees and are in
for trouble if people set the trees on fire: If we place our
trust in our life, our bodies, or our worldly possessions,
we'll have no refuge when the fires of death reach us. Or as
when a boat sinks in the middle of the ocean: A person without
a life-vest is in serious danger. For this reason, we should
educate ourselves so as to find a refuge that will benefit us
both in this life and in lives to come.
comparison: The sages of the past used the term 'Buddha-ratana,'
comparing the Buddha to a jewel. Now, there are three sorts of
jewels: artificial gems; gemstones, such as rubies or
sapphires; and diamonds, which are held to be the highest. The
aspects of the Buddha might be compared to these three sorts
of jewels. To place confidence in the external aspect -- the
body of the Buddha or images made to represent him -- is like
dressing up with artificial gems. To show respect for the
practices followed by the Buddha by giving rise to them within
ourselves is like dressing up with rubies and sapphires. To
reach the quality of deathlessness is like dressing in
diamonds from head to toe.
But no matter
what sort of jewels we use to dress up in, we're better off
than savages who go around hanging bones from their necks, who
look unkempt and -- what's more -- are bound to be haunted by
the bones they wear. The bones, here, stand for the body,
i.e., our attachment to the body as really being ours.
Actually, our body comes for the most part from the bodies of
other animals -- the food we've eaten -- so how can we
seriously take it to be our own? Whoever insists on regarding
the body as his or her own is like a savage or a swindler --
and, as a swindler, is bound to receive punishment in
proportion to the crime. Thus, we should regard the body as
money borrowed for the span of a lifetime, to be used as
capital. And we should search for profits so as to release
ourselves from our debts, by searching for another, better
form of goodness: the qualities of the Buddha that he
left as teachings for all of his followers. These qualities,
briefly put, are --
Sati: the continual mindfulness (wakefulness) found in
the factors of jhana.
Pañña: the intuitive discernment that comes from
developing mental concentration.
Vimutti: release from defilement
qualities that all Buddhists should develop within themselves
so as to gain Awakening, following the example of the Buddha,
becoming Savaka Buddhas (Disciple Buddhas), an opportunity
open -- without exception and with no restrictions of time or
place -- to all who follow his teachings.
revere the Buddha in the full sense of the word should have
two sorts of symbols with them, to serve as reminders of their
Buddha-nimitta: representatives of the Buddha, such as
Buddha images or stupas in which relics of the Buddha are
placed. This sort of reminder is like a nation's flag.
Buddha-guna: the qualities that form the inner symbol of
the Buddha, i.e., the proper practice of his teachings.
Whoever takes a stand in this manner is bound to be
victorious both within and without, safe from such enemies
as temptation and mortality.
Our nation's flag
and the people of our nation are two different things. Just as
our flag will have value only if the people of our nation are
good and preserve the fullness of the nation's qualities; so
too, we Buddhists have to respect both our flag -- images of
the Buddha -- and the qualities of the Buddha if we are to be
good Buddhists. Otherwise, we will suffer from not having
fulfilled our responsibilities.
To take an
example, we Thai people, in order to be Thai in the full
sense, have to possess a number of qualifications: the ability
to speak and to read Thai, acquaintance with Thai customs and
traditions, the ability to benefit ourselves (attattha-cariya)
and to spread those benefits to help care for the needs of our
parents, spouses, and children (ñatatthacariya). And
not only that: If we have the ability and the energy --
physical, mental, financial, or the energy of our virtues --
we should expand those benefits to help our fellow human
beings in general throughout the nation (lokatthacariya).
This is what it means to be Thai in the full sense of the
word. In the same way, we who revere the image of the Buddha
and the Buddha's good qualities should have them with us at
all times if we are to receive the full benefits that come
from being Buddhist and to maintain the peace and well-being
of Buddhists at large.
* * *
Dhammam saranam gacchami:
I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
There are three
levels to the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha --
A. Pariyatti: studying the
words of the Buddha as recorded in the Canon -- the
Discipline, the Discourses, and the Abhidhamma.
B. Patipatti: following the
practice of moral virtue, concentration, and discernment as
derived from one's study of the Canon.
C. Pativedha: Liberation.
A. The study of the Dhamma can
be done in any of three ways --
Alagaddupama-pariyatti: studying like a water viper.
Nissaranattha-pariyatti: studying for the sake of
Bhandagarika-pariyatti: studying to be a storehouse
Studying like a
water viper means to study the words of the Buddha without
then putting them into practice, having no sense of shame at
doing evil, disobeying the monastic code, making oneself like
a poisonous snake-head, full of the fires of greed, anger, and
Studying for the
sake of emancipation means to study the Buddha's teachings out
of a desire for merit and wisdom, with a sense of conviction
and high regard for their worth -- and then, once we have
reached an understanding, bringing our thoughts, words, and
deeds into line with those teachings with a high sense of
reverence and respect. To try to bring the Buddha's teachings
into line with ourselves is the wrong approach -- because, for
the most part, we are full of defilements, cravings, views,
and conceits. If we act in this way we are bound to be more at
fault than those who try to bring themselves into line with
the teachings: Such people are very hard to find fault with.
Studying to be a
storehouse keeper refers to the education of people who no
longer have to be trained, i.e., of Arahants, the highest
level of the Noble Ones. Some Arahants, when they were still
ordinary, run-of-the-mill people, heard the Dhamma directly
from the Buddha once or twice and were able immediately to
reach the highest attainment. This being the case, they lacked
a wide-ranging knowledge of worldly conventions and
traditions; and so, with an eye to the benefit of other
Buddhists, they were willing to undergo a certain amount of
further education. This way of studying the Dhamma is called
'sikkha-garavata': respect for the training.
B. The practice of the Dhamma
means to conduct oneself in line with the words of the Buddha
as gathered under three headings:
proper behavior, free from vice and harm, in terms of one's
words and deeds.
Concentration: intentness of mind, centered on one of the
themes of meditation, such as the breath.
insight and circumspection with regard to all fashioned
things, i.e., physical properties, aggregates, and sense
oneself in this manner is termed practicing the Dhamma. By and
large, though, Buddhists tend to practice the Dhamma in a
variety of ways that aren't in line with the true path of
practice. If we were to classify their ways of practice, there
would be three:
Lokadhipateyya -- putting the world first.
2 Attadhipateyya -- putting the self first.
3 Dhammadhipateyya -- putting the Dhamma
To put the world
first means to practice for the sake of such worldly rewards
as prestige, material gains, praise, and sensual pleasures.
When we practice this way, we are actually torturing
ourselves, because undesirable things are bound to occur:
Having attained prestige, we can lose it. Having acquired
material gains, we can lose them. Having received praise, we
can receive censure. Having experienced pleasure, we can see
it disintegrate. Far from the paths, fruitions, and nibbana,
we torture ourselves by clinging to these things as our own.
To put the self
first means to practice in accordance with our own opinions,
acting in line with whatever those opinions may be. Most of us
tend to side with ourselves, getting stuck on our own views
and conceits because our study of the Dhamma hasn't reached
the truth of the Dhamma, and so we take as our standard our
own notions, composed of four forms of personal bias --
Chandagati: doing whatever we feel like doing.
Bhayagati: fearing certain forms of power or authority,
and thus not daring to practice the Dhamma as we truly
should. (We put certain individuals first.)
Dosagati: acting under the power of anger, defilement,
craving, conceits, and views.
Mohagati: practicing misguidedly, not studying or
searching for what is truly good; assuming that we're
already smart enough, or else that we're too stupid to
learn; staying buried in our habits with no thought of
extracting ourselves from our sensual pleasures.
All of these ways
of practice are called 'putting the self first.'
To put the Dhamma
first means to follow the Noble Eightfold Path --
View: seeing that there really is good, there really is
evil, there really is stress, that stress has a cause, that
it disbands, and that there is a cause for its disbanding.
Resolve: thinking of how to rid ourselves of whatever
qualities we know to be wrong and immoral, i.e., seeing the
harm in sensual desires in that they bring on suffering and
Speech: speaking the truth; not saying anything divisive or
inciteful; not saying anything coarse or vulgar in
situations where such words would not be proper; not saying
anything useless. Even though what we say may be worthwhile,
if our listener isn't interested then our words would still
count as useless.
Action: being true to our duties, not acting in ways that
would be corrupt or bring harm to ourselves or others.
Livelihood: obtaining wealth in ways that are honest,
searching for it in a moral way and using it in a moral way.
Effort: persisting in ridding ourselves of all that is wrong
and harmful in our thoughts, words, and deeds; persisting in
giving rise to what would be good and useful to ourselves
and others in our thoughts, words, and deeds, without a
thought for the difficulty or weariness involved; acting
persistently so as to be a mainstay to others (except in
cases that are beyond our control).
Mindfulness: being mindful and deliberate, making sure not
to act or speak through the power of inattention or
forgetfulness, making sure to be constantly mindful in our
thoughts (being mindful of the four frames of reference).
Concentration: keeping the mind centered and resilient. No
matter what we do or say, no matter what moods may strike
the heart, the heart keeps its poise, firm and unflinching
in the four levels of jhana.
factors can be reduced to three -- virtue, concentration, and
discernment -- called the middle way, the heart of the
Buddha's teachings. The 'middleness' of virtue means to be
pure in thought, word, and deed, acting out of compassion,
seeing that the life of others is like your own, that their
possessions are like your own, feeling benevolence, loving
others as much as yourself. When 'you' and 'they' are equal in
this way, you are bound to be upright in your behavior, like a
well-balanced burden that, when placed on your shoulders,
doesn't cause you to tip to one side or the other. But even
then you are still in a position of having to shoulder a
burden. So you are taught to focus the mind on a single
preoccupation: This can be called 'holding in your hands' --
i.e., holding the mind in the middle -- or concentration.
The middleness of
concentration means focusing on the present, not sending your
thoughts into the past or future, holding fast to a single
preoccupation (anapanaka-jhana, absorption in the
As for the
middleness of discernment: No matter what preoccupations may
come passing by, you are able to rid yourself of all feelings
of liking or disliking, approval or rejection. You don't
cling, even to the one preoccupation that has arisen as a
result of your own actions. You put down what you have been
holding in your hands; you don't fasten onto the past, present
or future. This is release.
When our virtue,
concentration, and discernment are all in the middle this way,
we're safe. Just as a boat going down the middle of a channel,
or a car that doesn't run off the side of the road, can reach
its destination without beaching or running into a tree; so
too, people who practice in this way are bound to reach the
qualities they aspire to, culminating in the paths and
fruitions leading to nibbana, which is the main point of the
So in short,
putting the Dhamma first means to search solely for purity of
C. The attainment of the Dhamma
refers to the attainment of the highest quality, nibbana. If
we refer to the people who reach this attainment, there are
four sorts --
Sukha-vipassako: those who develop just enough
tranquillity and discernment to act as a basis for advancing
to liberating insight and who thus attain nibbana having
mastered only asavakkhaya-ñana, the knowledge that
does away with the fermentation of defilement.
Tevijjo: those who attain the three skills.
Chalabhiñño: those who attain the six intuitive powers.
Catuppatisambhidappatto: those who attain the four forms
sukha-vipassako (those who develop insight more than
tranquillity): Vipassana (liberating insight) and
asavakkhaya-ñana (the awareness that does away with the
fermentation of defilement) differ only in name. In actuality
they refer to the same thing, the only difference being that
vipassana refers to the beginning stage of insight, and
asavakkhaya-ñana to the final stage: clear and true
comprehension of the four Noble Truths.
tevijjo: The three skills are --
Pubbenivasanussati-ñana: the ability to remember past
lives -- one, two, three, four, five, ten, one hundred, one
thousand, depending on one's powers of intuition. (This is a
basis for proving whether death is followed by rebirth or
Cutupapata-ñana: knowledge of where living beings are
reborn -- on refined levels or base -- after they die.
Asavakkhaya-ñana: the awareness that enables one to do
away with the fermentations in one's character (sensuality,
states of being, ignorance).
chalabhiñño: The six intuitive powers are --
Iddhividhi: the ability to display miracles -- becoming
invisible, walking on a dry path through a body of water,
levitating, going through rain without getting wet, going
through fire without getting hot, making a crowd of people
appear to be only a few, making a few to appear many, making
oneself appear young or old as one likes, being able to use
the power of the mind to influence events in various ways.
Dibbasota: clairaudience; the ability to hear far
distant sounds, beyond ordinary human powers.
Cetopariya-ñana: the ability to know the thoughts of
Pubbenivasanussati-ñana: the ability to remember
Dibba-cakkhu: clairvoyance; the ability to see far
distant objects, beyond ordinary human powers. Some people
can even see other levels of being with their clairvoyant
powers (one way of proving whether death is followed by
rebirth or annihilation, and whether or not there really are
other levels of being).
Asavakkhaya-ñana: the awareness that does away with the
fermentation of defilement.
catuppatisambhidappatto: The four forms of acumen are --
Attha-patisambhida: acumen with regard to the sense of
the Doctrine and of matters in general, knowing how to
explain various points in line with their proper meaning.
Dhamma-patisambhida: acumen with regard to all mental
Nirutti-patisambhida: acumen with regard to linguistic
conventions. (This can include the ability to know the
languages of living beings in general.)
Patibhana-patisambhida: acumen in speaking on the spur
of the moment, knowing how to answer any question so as to
clear up the doubts of the person asking (like the Venerable
This ends the
discussion of the virtues of the four classes of people --
called Arahants -- who have reached the ultimate quality,
nibbana. As for the essence of what it means to be an Arahant,
though, there is only one point -- freedom from defilement:
This is what it means to attain the Dhamma, the other virtues
being simply adornment.
The three levels
of Dhamma we have discussed are, like the Buddha, compared to
jewels: There are many kinds of jewels to choose from,
depending on how much wealth -- discernment -- we have.
All of the
qualities we have mentioned so far, to put them briefly so as
to be of use, come down to this: Practice so as to give rise
to virtue, concentration, and discernment within yourself.
Otherwise, you won't have a refuge or shelter. A person
without the qualities that provide refuge and shelter is like
a person without a home -- a delinquent or a vagrant -- who is
bound to wander shiftlessly about. Such people are hollow
inside, like a clock without any workings: Even though it has
a face and hands, it can't tell anyone where it is, what time
it is, or whether it's morning, noon, or night (i.e., such
people forget that they are going to die).
People who aren't
acquainted with the Dhamma within themselves are like people
blind from birth: Even though they are born in the world of
human beings, they don't know the light of the sun and moon
that enables human beings to see. They get no benefit from the
light of the sun and moon or the light of fire; and being
blind, they then go about proclaiming to those who can see,
that there is no sun, no moon, and no brightness to the world.
As a result, they mislead those whose eyes are already a
little bleary. In other words, some groups say that the
Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha don't exist, that they were
invented to fool the gullible.
Now, the Dhamma
is something subtle and fine, like the fire-potential (tejas)
that exists in the air or in various elements and that, if we
have enough common sense, can be drawn out and put to use. But
if we're fools, we can sit staring at a bamboo tube [a device
for starting fire that works on the same principle as the
diesel engine] from dawn to dusk without ever seeing fire at
all. Anyone who believes that there is no Buddha, Dhamma, or
Sangha, no series of paths or fruitions leading to nibbana, no
consciousness that experiences death and rebirth, is like the
fool sitting and staring at the bamboo tube.
Here I would like
to tell a story as an allegory of those who aren't acquainted
with the Dhamma. There once was a man living in the woods who,
with his five sons, started growing crops in a clearing about
a mile from their home village. He built a small shack at the
clearing and would often take his sons to stay there. One
morning he started a fire in the shack and told his sons to
look after the fire, for he was going out to hunt for food in
the forest. 'If the fire goes out,' he told them, 'get some
fire from my bamboo tube and start it up again.' Then he set
out to search for food for his sons.
After he had
left, his sons got so wrapped up in their play that when they
finally took a look at the fire, they found that it was
completely out. So they had the first son go get some fire to
start it up again. The first son walked over and tried
knocking on the bamboo tube but didn't see any fire. So they
had the second son get some fire from the tube: He opened it
up but didn't see any fire inside. All he saw were two bamboo
chips but he didn't know what to do with them. So the third
son came over for a look and, since he didn't see any fire, he
took a knife to cut the tube in half but still didn't see any
fire. The fourth son went over and, seeing the two halves
lying there, shaved them down into thin strips to find the
fire in them but didn't see any fire at all.
Finally the fifth
son went over to look for fire, but before he went he said to
his brothers, 'What's the matter with you guys that you can't
get any fire from the bamboo tube? What a bunch of fools you
are! I'll go get it myself.' With that, he went to look at the
bamboo tube and found it split into strips lying in pile.
Realizing what his brothers had done, and thinking, 'What a
bunch of hare-brains,' he reached for a mortar and pestle and
ground up the bamboo strips to find the fire in them. By the
time he ran out of strength, he had ground them into a powder,
but he still hadn't found any fire. So he snuck off to play by
toward noon, the father returned from the forest and found
that the fire had gone out. So he asked his sons about it, and
they told him how they had looked for fire in the bamboo tube
without finding any. 'Idiots,' he thought, 'they've taken my
fire-starter and pounded it to bits. For that, I won't fix
them any food. Let 'em starve!' As a result, the boys didn't
get anything to eat the entire day.
Those of us who
aren't acquainted with the brightness of the Dhamma -- 'Dhammo
padipo' -- lying within us, who don't believe that the
Dhamma has value for ourselves and others, are lacking in
discernment, like the boys looking for fire in the bamboo
tube. Thus we bring about our own ruin in various ways,
wasting our lives: born in darkness, living in darkness, dying
in darkness, and then reborn in more darkness all over again.
Even though the Dhamma lies within us, we can't get any use
from it and thus will suffer for a long time to come, like the
boys who ruined their father's fire-starter and so had to go
The Dhamma lies
within us, but we don't look for it. If we hope for goodness,
whether on a low or a high level, we'll have to look here,
inside, if we are to find what is truly good. But before we
can know ourselves in this way, we first have to know --
through study and practice -- the principles taught by the
(pariyatti dhamma) is simply one of the symbols of the
Buddha's teachings. The important point is to actualize the
Dhamma through the complete practice of virtue, concentration,
and discernment. This is an essential part of the religion,
the part that forms the inner symbol of all those who practice
rightly and well. Whether the religion will be good or bad,
whether it will prosper or decline, depends on our practice,
not on the recorded doctrine, because the recorded doctrine is
merely a symbol. So if we aim at goodness, we should focus on
developing our inner quality through the Dhamma of practice
(patipatti dhamma). As for the main point of Buddhism,
that's the Dhamma of attainment (pativedha dhamma), the
transcendent quality: nibbana.
* * *
Sangham saranam gacchami:
I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Sangha, if translated as a substantive, refers to those
who have ordained and are wearing the yellow robe. Translated
as a quality, it refers to all people in general who have
practiced correctly in line with the Buddha's teachings.
Members of the monastic order, however, are of all sorts, and
so we have two groups --
A. Sammuti-sangha: the
B. Ariya-sangha: the Noble
Membership in the
conventional Sangha is attained through consent of the Order,
in a formal ceremony with witnesses, following the procedures
set out in the Vinaya. Membership in the Noble Sangha is
attained when the quality of transcendence (lokuttara
dhamma) appears in one's heart as a result of one's own
behavior and practice, with no formalities of any sort
whatsoever. All Buddhists -- whether formally ordained or not,
no matter what their sex, color, or social position -- can
become members of this Sangha. This is termed being ordained
by the Dhamma, or being self-ordained in a way that cannot be
To speak in
abstract terms, the qualities of transcendence, stable and
sure, that appear in the hearts of those who practice --
leading them solely to the higher realms and closing off the
four states of destitution (apaya) -- are, taken
together, called the Noble Sangha.
A. Members of the conventional
Sangha, with regard to the way they conduct themselves, fall
into four groups --
Upajivika: those who are looking simply for ways to make
a living, without looking for any higher virtues to develop
within themselves. They use the yellow robe as a means of
livelihood, without any thought of following the threefold
training of virtue, concentration, and discernment.
Upakilika: those who become ordained without any respect
for the training, looking simply for pastimes for their own
enjoyment -- collecting plants, playing chess, gambling,
buying lottery tickets, betting on horses -- looking for
gain in ways forbidden by the Vinaya, disobeying the words
of the Buddha, disregarding the virtues set out in the
scriptures, undermining the religion.
Upamuyuhika: those who are close-minded and misguided,
unwilling to train themselves in heightened virtue,
concentration, or discernment. Even though they may have
some education and knowledge, they still keep themselves
closed-minded, making excuses based on their teachers, the
time, the place, and their accustomed beliefs and practices.
Stuck where they are, such people are unwilling to change
their ways so as to accord with the principles of the
Upanissarana: those who desire merit and wisdom; who
search for the true principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya; who
set their hearts on studying with reverence and respect, and
conduct themselves in line with what they have learned; who
aim for the merit and wisdom offered by Buddhism, for the
path leading to release from suffering; who rightly follow
the Lord Buddha's teachings, i.e., --
Anupavado: They don't berate others in inappropriate
Anupaghato: They aren't vindictive.
Patimokkhe ca samvaro: They stay well within the
precepts of the Patimokkha and don't disobey the
injunctions of the Vinaya -- like good citizens, desired
by the nation, who stay within the bounds of the
government's laws. (If people don't keep within the laws
of the land, it will lead only to turmoil, because people
who have no bounds are like farmers who have no boundary
markers and who will thus infringe on one another's
property, giving rise to needless disputes and
ill-feeling, serving no purpose whatsoever.)
Mattaññuta ca bhattasmim: They have a sense of
moderation in searching for and using the four necessities
of life. They understand how to make the best use of
things -- knowing what's beneficial and what's harmful,
what is and what isn't of use to the body, considering
things carefully before making use of them (in line with
the principles of morality and the Buddha's teachings).
Pantañca sayanasanam: They favor quiet, secluded
places to stay. To quote from the Canon, these include:
Araññagato va: going to a forest wilderness, far
from human society, free from social interaction
Suññagaragato va: or to uninhabited dwellings, in
places far off the beaten track.
Rukkhamulagato va: or living under the shade of a
tree, in a cave, or under an overhanging cliff face, so
as to aid the heart in attaining concentration.
Adhicitte ca ayogo: They make a persistent effort,
through the practice of concentration, to cleanse the
heart, freeing it from such Hindrances as sensual desire.
sasanam: All of these factors are the teachings of the
Samano hoti param vihethayanto.
How can a person
who harms himself and others be a good monk?
These, then are
the attributes of the Sangha. In broad terms, they come down
to two sorts:
Sangha-nimitta: the symbol of having been ordained (the
mode of dress, etc.).
Guna-sampatti: the inner qualifications -- virtue and
truth -- of those worthy meditators who are held to be the
field of merit for the world.
Those with the
necessary resources -- i.e., discernment -- will obtain a good
field. Whatever seed they plant will give a yield well worth
the effort involved, just as an intelligent person who puts
his savings in a safe national bank will protect his capital
from loss and even earn a profit.
Just as a good
rice field has four characteristics -- the ground is level and
even, the dike has a water gate that is easy to open and
close, the soil is rich in nutrients, the rainfall comes at
the proper season -- in the same way, members of the Sangha
who are to be a field of merit for the world have to be
endowed with the four following qualities:
analogy of level, even ground refers to those monks who are
free from the four forms of personal bias. Whatever they do
in thought, word and deed, they are free from:
Chandagati -- i.e., they don't act solely under the
power of their own likes and inclinations;
Dosagati -- or under the power of ill will or anger
Mohagati -- or under the power of delusion;
Bhayagati -- or under the power of fear or
apprehension of any sort whatsoever. They aim at what is
right and true as their major concern, both in the
presence of others and in private, keeping themselves
always on a par with their principles.
for the analogy of a water gate that is easy to open and
close, 'closing' refers to exercising restraint so that evil
doesn't arise within us. Restraint has four aspects --
Patimokkha-samvara-sila: staying within the bounds of
the Monastic Code.
Indriya-samvara-sila: exercising restraint over our
senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and
ideation so as to keep the mind quiet, unagitated, and in
Ajiva-parisuddhi-sila: searching for the necessities
of life -- food, clothing, shelter, and medicine -- only
in ways that are proper.
Paccaya-paccavekkhana-parisuddhi-sila: considering the
necessities of life before using them so as not to use
them out of desire or craving.
restraint in these ways is called 'closing.' 'Closing,'
however, can be understood in another way, i.e., exercising
restraint so that corruption doesn't arise in the three
areas of our thoughts, words, and deeds.
close or control our deeds means, in broad terms, not to
kill living beings or to oppress or torment them in any
way; not to steal the belongings of others; and not to
engage in sexual misconduct (or in the sexual act) or to
give rein to any sensual desires. Even though such desires
may arise in the heart, we keep them under control. This
is what it means to close our deeds.
close our words means not to tell lies, either to others
people's faces or behind their backs; not to speak
divisively, i.e., in a way that would lead to a needless
falling-out between people; not to speak coarsely or
abusively, not cursing, swearing or being vulgar; and not
to engage in useless chatter, saying things that are of no
real use to ourselves or our listeners. To be intent on
restraining ourselves in this way is called closing off
evil words so that they don't have a chance to arise.
close off evil thoughts means:
Anabhijjha-visama-lobha: refraining from the greed
that goes above and beyond our sphere and powers to the
point where dissatisfaction defiles the mind.
Abyapada: not storing up feelings of ill will to the
point where anger takes over and we let jealousy and
Sammaditthi: keeping our views correct in line with
right principles, eliminating views that arise from the
mind's being clouded and untrained -- i.e., overpowered
by ignorance and delusion -- to the point of believing
that there is no good or evil, and from there to deeply
ingrained unwise mental states. If we take care to ward
off these unwise mental qualities so that they can't
arise in our hearts, they will give way to Right View:
seeing that there really is good, there really is evil;
that virtue, generosity, and meditation really give
results; that the paths and fruitions leading to nibbana
really exist. When we see things in this way, we have in
effect closed off evil, preventing it from penetrating
our hearts, just as rice farmers close their dykes to
prevent salt water from flowing into their fields.
'opening,' it refers to practicing the five forms of
Avasamacchariya: not being possessive of the place
over which we have control, such as our temple or
monastery; not preventing good people from coming to stay.
If people are pure in their behavior and able to impart
what is good to us, we should make room for them so that
they can stay in comfort. Evil people, however, shouldn't
be allowed to infiltrate our group; and bad people who are
already in the group should be expelled. This is how to
behave with discernment in this area.
Kulamacchariya: not being possessive of our families.
On the external level, this refers to the families who
support us. We don't prevent them from making offerings to
other individuals and we don't prevent capable individuals
from teaching and advising them. Some monks stand in the
way of such interchanges, creating barriers with their
thoughts, words, and deeds. Sometimes if their supporters
make merit with other individuals, they even make
reprisals, such as refusing to allow that family to make
merit with their own groups or factions. These worthless
attitudes shouldn't be allowed to arise in our hearts.
internal level, being possessive of our 'family' refers to
the heart's attachment to sensations and mental acts,
which form the family line of unawakened people. We should
abandon this attachment so that we can enter the lineage
of the Noble Ones.
Labhamacchariya: not being possessive of the material
gains we have attained through proper means, not regarding
them as being our own. Material gains, as classified by
the Vinaya, are of four sorts: food, clothing, shelter
(lodgings and the items used in them, such as furniture,
matting, etc.), and medicine. We should see that when
people present us with offerings of this sort, they have
abandoned an enemy -- their own stinginess and selfishness
-- and have gained in worth and wisdom through the power
of their sacrifice. Anyone who receives such an offering
and clings to it as really being his own is like a person
who collects coconut pulp or sugar cane pulp from which
others have already squeezed and drunk the juice. For this
reason, people of wisdom and discernment aren't possessive
of their belongings. They are always willing to relinquish
and share their gains -- in proportion to the amount they
have received -- so that others can make use of them.
external relinquishment. As for internal relinquishment:
Whereas we once ate as we liked, many times a day, we now
eat less, only one meal a day. We use only one set of
robes. We relinquish our comfortable lodgings and
undertake the ascetic practice of living in the forest or
under the shade of a tree. If we become ill, we search for
medicine and treat our disease with moderation, in a way
that doesn't create burdens for others. In other words, we
relinquish ourselves as an offering to the religion by
putting it into practice. This is classed as the internal
relinquishment of material gain through the power of our
practice and conduct.
Vannamacchariya: not being possessive of our 'color'
(vanna). 'Vanna,' here, can be interpreted in two
ways. In one sense, it refers to social caste or class.
For example, the ruling class, the religious elite,
property owners, and laborers are held to be unequal in
status, and the members of one group are unwilling to let
other groups mix with theirs. If such mixing occurs, they
regard it as something base and disgraceful and so they
continually put up barriers to prevent it from happening.
In this case, we can infer that we shouldn't make
distinctions based on faction, nationality, color, or
race, because the Buddha taught that a person's worth
comes not from his or her birth, but from the goodness of
his or her own actions; or, as we say, 'Those who do good
will meet with good, those who do evil will meet with
evil.' For example, we worship and respect the Buddha even
though he wasn't Thai as we are. We respect him through
the power of his goodness. If we were to be close-minded
and nationalistic, we Thai's wouldn't have any religion to
worship at all aside from the religion of spirits and
sense of 'vanna' refers to the complexion of our skin.
This, too, we cling to, unwilling to sacrifice it for what
is worthy and good. We hesitate to observe the precepts,
to meditate, or to undertake the ascetic practices for
fear that we'll spoil our looks and complexion.
Dhammamacchariya: not being possessive of the Buddha's
teachings we have learned. Possessiveness in this case can
mean not wanting to teach unless we are reimbursed, not
wanting to preach unless there is an offering, or
complaining if the offering is small.
level, being possessive of the dhamma can refer to holding
on to the unskillful qualities (akusala-dhamma)
within us; being unwilling to rid ourselves of such evils
as greed, anger, delusion, pride, conceit, or any of the
other fermentations of defilement; clinging to these
things without searching for the techniques, called the
Path, for relinquishing them, i.e.:
precepts of the Monastic Code that, if we observe them
carefully, can eliminate the common defilements arising
through our words and deeds;
practice of concentration that, when it is developed in
our hearts, can eliminate intermediate defilements,
i.e., such Hindrances as sensual desire;
discernment that, when it arises within us, can
eliminate such subtle defilements from our hearts as
avijja -- mental murkiness; tanha -- craving;
and upadana -- attachment to false assumptions.
develop these five forms of unselfishness, we can be
classed as open -- and our eyes will be open to perceiving
the highest quality, the transcendent.
analogy of soil rich in nutrients refers to our putting four
qualities into practice --
Metta: good will, friendliness, hoping for our own
well-being and that of all other living beings.
Karuna: compassion for ourselves and others, which
induces us to be helpful in various ways.
Mudita: appreciation for ourselves for having
cultivated goodness; appreciation (not feeling jealousy)
for the goodness cultivated by others.
Upekkha: equanimity in cases beyond our control. For
instance, when death has come to a person we know, we see
that it is beyond our help and so we keep our hearts
neutral, not allowing feelings of sadness or gladness to
For these four
qualities to arise in fully mature form, they have to appear
in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Whatever we may do in
thought, word, or deed should not be done through the power
of anger. We should regard anger as an ogre -- and when
anger takes over, our body becomes an ogre's tool: his
bludgeon. To see the drawbacks of anger in this way can give
rise to good will in thought, word, and deed, extending
without partiality to all people and living beings
throughout the world. Even with our enemies we should try to
develop these same thoughts of good will, by looking for
their good side, in one way or another, instead of looking
just at their bad side, which can cause hatred to invade and
consume our hearts. Anger is a fire that can't burn other
people; it burns only ourselves. This is why we should
develop good will within our hearts. The power of good will
brings good to everyone -- just as food that contains the
nutrients needed by people brings health and contentment to
all who eat it; or as fertilizer with the proper nutrients
can cause plants and trees to grow, give fruit, and so be of
use to people and other living beings. Good will is thus a
form of goodness that can be classed as nourishment. (Good
will is what cools the fevers of the world.)
analogy of seasonable rain refers to our establishing
ourselves in the four bases of success (iddhipada) --
Chanda: feeling a love and an affinity for goodness
and virtue as much as for life, or more.
Viriya: being persistent, audacious, and persevering
in cultivating goodness within ourselves.
Citta: being intent on whatever we set about to do.
Vimansa: being discriminating and circumspect at all
times in whatever we set about to do.
qualities can lead to two kinds of success: iddhiriddhi
-- success through the power of thought; and puññariddhi
-- success that comes on its own. Both of these forms of
success, on the level of the world or the Dhamma, have to be
based on the four qualities mentioned above. These four
qualities are like preservatives: Whoever is saturated with
them won't go sour or stale. And when we're free from going
stale, our work is bound not to stagnate and so is sure to
comparison: These four qualities are 'sacca-kamma' --
actions that give rise to truth, achieving our purposes. Those
who bring these qualities into themselves will become true
people. Truth can be compared to salt: If we try to keep food,
like vegetables or fish, without salting it, it soon turns
rotten and wormy, making it unfit for human consumption. But
if we salt it, it can keep for a long time. A good example of
this is our Lord Buddha, whose actions gave rise to truth and
who thus was able to establish the religion so as to benefit
people at large. Even the body he left behind still serves a
purpose for human and divine beings. For instance, his bones,
which have become relics, are still with us even though he
gained total liberation a long time ago. As for his teachings,
they have lasted for more than 2,500 years. And he himself is
deathless, i.e., he has entered total nibbana. All of this was
achieved by means of truth, i.e., the four bases of success.
Those of us who
have no truth, though, are like unsalted fish or meat, and are
bound to go wormy. The worms, here, refer to our various
defilements and are of three main species: The first species
is composed of affection, anger, and delusion; these feed on
us from our feet to our waists. The second species -- sensual
desire, ill-will, torpor, restlessness, and uncertainty --
latch on and bore into us from our waists to our necks. And
the third species -- the fermentation of sensuality, states of
being, views, and ignorance (cloudy, unclear knowledge) --
eats us up whole: ears, eyes, nose, mouth, body, and mind.
Whoever is all wormy like this is classed as a person gone
rotten and stale, who hasn't reached any qualities of
substance. And for this reason, the bones of such a person
after death are no match for the bones of chickens and pigs,
for no one wants them. If the bones and meat of such a person
were put up for sale, no one would buy. And furthermore, such
a person will have to come back as an angry ghost, lolling its
tongue and rolling its eyes, to frighten its children and
develops the four qualities mentioned above will reach
deathlessness -- amata dhamma -- which is like a
crystalline shower that comes from distilling away all
impurities, just as rain water, which is distilled from the
sea, rises into the air and returns to the earth, nourishing
the grasses, crops, and trees, giving refreshment to people
and other living beings.
These, then, are
some of the characteristics of those who form the field of
merit for the world both on the mundane and on the
transcendent levels, who conduct themselves in keeping with
the phrase in the chant of the virtues of the Sangha:
'The field of
merit for the world.'
Now we will
discuss the chant of the virtues of the Sangha further as a
path to practice, because the virtues of the Sangha are open
to all Buddhists in general, without excluding any individual,
race, or social class at all. Whoever puts these principles
into practice is capable of becoming a member of the Noble
Sangha without having to go through the formalities of the
Vinaya. In other words, this is a community and a state of
worthiness open to all who put the following principles into
Supatipanno: being a person whose conduct is good. 'Good
conduct' refers to seven principles --
should gather frequently -- for the daily chanting
services, to hear the Dhamma explained, to seek out wise
people, and to join whole-heartedly in the work of the
group. This is external gathering. What is really
important, though, is internal gathering, i.e., collecting
the mind in concentration, which is the gathering point of
all that is good and forms the basic skill for bringing
the factors of the Path together (magga-samangi).
When a meeting of the group disperses, we should all
disperse at the same time and not act at variance with the
group. On the internal level, we should all as a group
disperse shoddiness from our thoughts, words, and deeds.
should neither establish new rules that were not
established by the Buddha nor abandon those that were. For
example, don't make a practice of doing things the Buddha
declared to be worthless, evil, or wrong; develop within
yourself the things he taught to be good, right, and
respectful of your elders, teachers, parents, etc.
Whatever you do in thought, word, or deed, don't act under
the influence of craving, anger, or delusion.
Make a point of searching out virtuous people.
Take pleasure in solitude.
This is what is
meant by good conduct.
Uju-patipanno: being a person whose conduct is
straightforward, firmly established in the threefold
training -- virtue, concentration, and discernment -- which
leads straight to nibbana; being fair and just, unswayed by
any of the four forms of personal bias. This is what is
meant by straightforward conduct.
Ñaya-patipanno: being a person whose conduct leads to
higher knowledge. This refers to following fifteen
procedures (carana-dhamma) --
Patimokkha-samvara: keeping within the precepts of the
Monastic Code, respecting the training rules of the Vinaya.
(For laypeople, this means observing the five or eight
Indriya-samvara: keeping watch over your senses of
sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and ideation so as
to keep the mind collected and at peace.
Bhojane mattaññuta: knowing moderation in the
requisites of life, i.e., eating only just enough food.
Jagariyanuyoga: being persistent in cleansing the mind
so that it is pure and bright, not allowing lapses in
mindfulness or alertness to occur.
Saddha: conviction, i.e., being convinced of the truth
of good and evil, of the paths and their fruitions; having
conviction in people who merit it.
Hiri: feeling shame at the thought of doing evil, not
doing evil either in public or in private.
Ottappa: having a sense of dread at the thought of
Bahusacca: being well-educated and always willing to
Viriya: being persistent, unflagging, and courageous
in performing your duties.
Sati: being mindful before doing anything in thought,
word, or deed.
Pañña: developing discernment as to what should and
should not be done, as to what is and isn't beneficial.
Pathama-jhana: the first level of jhana, composed of
five factors -- directed thought, evaluation, rapture,
pleasure, and singleness of preoccupation. (Jhana means to
be absorbed in or focused on a single object or
preoccupation, as when we deal with the breath.)
Dutiya-jhana: the second level of jhana, composed of
three factors -- rapture, pleasure, and singleness of
Tatiya-jhana: the third level of jhana, composed of
two factors -- pleasure and singleness of preoccupation.
Catuttha-jhana: the fourth level of jhana, composed of
two factors -- equanimity and pure mindfulness, which is
the single preoccupation of your concentration.
This is what is
meant by conduct leading to higher knowledge.
Here we will
discuss how to give rise to the first level of jhana.
thought: Think of the breath until you can recognize it both
as it comes in and as it goes out.
preoccupation: Let the mind become one, at rest with the
breath, not straying away to other objects. Watch over your
thoughts so that they deal only with the breath until the
breath becomes comfortable.
Focus exclusively on issues connected with the breath and
acquaint yourself with how to let this comfortable
breath-sensation spread and co-ordinate with the other
breath-sensations in the body. Let these breath-sensations
spread until they all merge. Once the body has been soothed
by the breath, feelings of pain will grow calm. The body
will be filled with good breath energy.
For jhana to
arise, these three factors have to be brought to bear on the
same breath sensation. This breath sensation can lead all
the way to the fourth level of jhana, the level of
refinement depending on the act of focusing through the
power of mindfulness: Sometimes the focus is broad,
sometimes narrow, in accordance with the different factors
on the different levels. But to be really beneficial, you
should let the breath spread as broadly as possible, being
constantly aware throughout the body of the various aspects
of the breath. You will then get excellent results from your
practice of jhana. You might even gain liberating insight on
this level, because the first level of jhana is what
constitutes threshold concentration (upacara samadhi).
If you want to
go on to fixed penetration (appana samadhi), you
should keep practicing this level until you are skilled,
i.e., skilled at fixing the mind on a single object, at
adjusting and expanding the object, and at staying in place.
When you want your concentration to have energy, make the
breath light and refined -- but keep your mindfulness broad.
Otherwise, the mind might go into arupa jhana, where
it has no sense of the form of the body; or you might sit
absolutely still, without any awareness of the body at all,
while the mind pays attention to another area, such as
simple awareness, completely disregarding the body or
sitting unconscious, like a log. This is bahira-jhana,
concentration outside of the Buddha's teachings, incapable
of giving rise to liberating insight.
So when you
begin, you should develop the three above-mentioned factors
as much as possible, and the mind will then be able to go on
to the second level of jhana. When you fix the mind on the
breath repeatedly using these three beginning factors, they
give rise to two more factors:
sense of fullness and refreshment of body and mind, going
straight to the heart, independent of all else.
sense of ease arising from the body's being still and
undisturbed (kaya-passaddhi), and from the mind's
being at rest on its own, placid and serene (citta-passaddhi).
The factors of
the first level of jhana, then, are of two sorts: cause and
result. The causes are directed thought, evaluation, and
singleness of preoccupation; the results, rapture and
As for the
second level of jhana, with its three factors of rapture,
pleasure, and singleness of preoccupation: This refers to
the state of mind that has tasted the results coming from
the first level of jhana. The sense of fullness becomes more
powerful, as does the sense of pleasure, allowing the mind
to abandon its thinking and evaluating, so that the
singleness of the preoccupation takes the lead from here on
in. Make the mind still in the refined sense of the breath.
Body and mind are full and at ease; the mind is more firmly
implanted in its object than before. After a while, as you
keep focusing in, the sense of fullness and pleasure begins
to move. Focus the mind down to a more refined level and you
will enter the third level of jhana.
The third level
of jhana has two factors -- pleasure and singleness of
preoccupation: The mind is solitary; the body, solitary and
still. The breath is refined and broad, with a white glow
like cotton-wool throughout the body, stilling all painful
feelings in body and mind. Not a single Hindrance (nivarana)
arises to interfere. The four properties -- earth, water,
fire, and wind -- are at peace with one another in every
part: You could almost say that they're pure throughout the
entire body. The mind is completely still -- steady, solid,
and sure -- reaching oneness in a solitary sense of ease.
Body and mind are in solitude. Even if you're with a group
of people, you feel as if you were alone. The mind is
strong, ardent, and expansive. Mindfulness is broad --
spreading throughout the body, focused exclusively on the
present, not affected by any allusions to past or future.
The breath gives rise to an energy that is pure white. The
mind has power. The focus is strong, and the light
brilliant. Energy is unwavering, so that you are no longer
concerned with your sense of pleasure, which dilates
somewhat. This causes the mind to focus on into the fourth
level of jhana.
level of jhana has two factors -- equanimity and singleness
of preoccupation (or mindfulness). The breath energy is
still, with no ripples or gaps. The properties of the body
are undisturbed. As for the mind, it is undisturbed with
regard to all three time periods: uninvolved with the past,
uninvolved with the future, undisturbed by the present. When
the mind stays with this undisturbed sense of equanimity,
this is the true meaning of 'singleness of preoccupation.'
The breath is at peace, the body at peace in every part.
There is no need to use the in-and-out breath. The breath
energy has reached saturation point.
properties (dhatu) are equal, all with the same
characteristics. The mind is completely at peace, with a
brilliance streaming in all directions. The brilliance of
the breath at peace reaches full strength. The brilliance of
the mind arises from the power of mindfulness focused on all
four of the great frames of reference: body, feelings, mind,
and mental qualities. The question of their being four
doesn't arise, for in this mental moment they coalesce in
perfect unity. The brilliance of the mind and of the body,
which arises from the power of their solitary stillness,
shines as jagariyanuyoga, the purifying inner fire
(tapas) that can dispel darkness thoroughly. The bright
light of the mind reaches full strength. The purity of the
different parts of the breath energy keeps the other
properties in good order. The body is completely at peace,
like a factory at rest. In other words, you don't have to
use the in-and-out breath. The body develops potency; the
mind, resilient power. When these reach saturation point, if
you then want to give rise to knowledge, shift your
awareness so that it dilates slightly, and the important
skills that arise from the power of the mind -- such as the
Eight Skills -- will appear, i.e.,:
Vipassana-ñana: clear insight into the elements,
aggregates, and sense media.
Manomayiddhi: the ability to achieve one's aims
through the power of thought.
Iddhividhi: the ability to display a variety of
Dibba-sota: clairaudience, the ability to hear far
Cetopariya-ñana: the ability to know the mental states
of other people.
Pubbe-nivasanussati-ñana: the ability to remember past
lives. (This is a basis for proving whether death is
followed by annihilation or rebirth, and whether or not
there really are other levels of existence.)
Dibba-cakkhu: clairvoyance, the inner eye that arises
from the power of the mind, relying to some extent on the
Asavakkhaya-ñana: knowing how to eliminate the
fermentations of defilement as they relate to your various
forms of knowledge.
If you want to
give rise to supernormal powers, formulate an intention at
that point, and it will appear openly, so that ordinary
people will be able to see it.
Both of these
aspects -- knowledge and power -- can lead to mastery on the
level of the world and of the Dhamma. The properties in the
body acquire potency; the mind becomes a potent center of
consciousness. This is the science of the mind on an
advanced level, giving rise to an advanced form of Buddhist
learning: lokavidu, wide-ranging knowledge of the
To develop the
factors discussed here is to warrant the name,
ñaya-patipanno, one whose conduct leads to higher
(The moment in
which the enemies of the body -- impure properties --
disband and disappear is termed 'sankhata-lakkhana-nirodha,'
conditioned disbanding. When the enemies of the mind --
i.e., the five Hindrances -- disappear completely, leaving
the mind radiant and clear, that is termed 'bhujissaka-nirodha,'
disbanding in a state of dependency.)
Samici-patipanno: being a person whose conduct is
masterful. This refers to our conduct in developing two
qualities: tranquillity and insight.
practice of tranquillity means stilling the mind in a
single preoccupation, free from the five Hindrances, so as
to attain the four levels of rupa-jhana.
practice of insight means seeing clearly and truly into
the nature of all conditioned things (sankhara),
e.g., seeing that they are inconstant, stressful, and
not-self; gaining discernment that sees distinctly in
terms of the four Noble Truths; seeing conditioned things
from both sides, i.e., the side that is inconstant,
stressful, and not-self, and the side that is constant,
pleasant, and self; giving rise to the state of pure
knowledge and vision termed 'gotarabhu-ñana,'
escaping from the assumption that things are either
constant or inconstant; knowing both the side that arises
and disbands, as well as the side that doesn't arise and
doesn't disband, without making assumptions about or being
attached to either side. Theories, views, and conceits
disappear. The mind doesn't fasten onto anything, past,
present, or future. This is termed 'asesa-viraga-nirodha,'
utter disbanding and dispassion. This is the way of
analyzed in detail in terms of the Doctrine in line with
the conventions of the sages of the past, means knowledge
of the four Noble Truths:
Dukkha: mental and physical stress, the result of
being overcome by the power of birth, aging, illness,
death, and defilement.
Samudaya: the cause of stress -- i.e., tanha,
craving or thirst -- which includes kama-tanha,
insatiable craving for sensual pleasures;
bhava-tanha, the desire to be or have certain states
of being; and vibhava-tanha, the desire not to be
or have certain states of being.
Nirodha: the disbanding of stress; the extinguishing
of the fires of defilement.
the path of practice that puts an end to craving, the
cause of stress.
All four of
these Noble Truths already exist in the world, but
ordinarily are hard to perceive because they show us only
their images or reflections. On this level, we can't yet
see them for what they really are. But for the Buddha to
know them, he had to start out with the reflections that
appear, before he was able to trace them back to the real
thing. This is why they are termed Noble Truths: They are
the possessions of noble people; only those who search and
explore can know them. Thus, the Noble Truths have two
aspects: their first aspect, which is the way they are
found in the experience of ordinary people in general; and
their second aspect, which is more subtle and can be known
only by people of wisdom who explore in the area of the
heart and mind.
An example of
the four Truths on the ordinary level, as experienced by
ordinary people: Physical discomfort, such as illness or
disease, can be called the truth of stress. Knowing enough
to buy the right medicine, or being a doctor who knows the
medicine for curing that particular kind of disease, is
the truth of the path. As the symptoms of the disease
disappear, that is termed conditional disbanding. When the
disease is cured, that is the truth of disbanding. If,
however, we suffer from a disease, such as a wound, but
don't know how to treat it -- simply wanting it to heal
and using whatever medicine we can lay our hands on,
without knowing whether it's right or wrong (this is
termed craving and ignorance) -- the wound will only
worsen, for the medicine we take isn't right for the
disease. This is the truth of the cause of stress.
If we want to
go deeper than the ordinary level, we have to practice
correctly in line with the way of the Path, developing our
virtue, concentration, and discernment, before we will be
able to perceive the four Truths on the noble level.
of the Dhamma, by its nature, lies mixed with its outer
accretions. If we don't have the right knowledge and
skill, we won't get very much use from the Dhamma.
Whatever benefits we do get will be only on the mundane
level. We can make a comparison with diamond or gold ore
buried in the ground: If a person doesn't have enough
knowledge to extract the ore, he will get only the traces
that come flowing out in spring water or that adhere to
rocks along the surface of the ground. These will earn him
only a meager profit, which won't be enough for a living.
A person with knowledge and skill, though, can use the
gold to make a living without having to search for any
other occupations, but he'll have to follow the traces
down into the earth until he meets with the real thing,
i.e., the genuine ore. Even just a single hunk -- if it's
large and of high quality, weighing a ton -- will enable
him to rest secure for the rest of his life. In the same
way, those who are wise in Buddhism see stress as a noble
treasure and so go digging down into stress; they see the
cause of stress as a noble treasure and so dig down into
it; they see the Path as a noble treasure; they see
disbanding and liberation as noble treasures and so dig on
down until they meet with the genuine ore. Only then can
they be called noble sages.
Those of us
who are dauntless enough to unearth our inner resources in
this way will be able to use those resources to protect
ourselves throughout time, gaining release from the cycle
of rebirth, the jail for imprisoning foolish and ignorant
people. We who like to explore in general should be glad
that we've come across a good mine with genuine ore whose
traces lie scattered about for us to see. If we don't
disregard the things we see, we'll meet the four Truths
If we were to
summarize the four Noble Truths briefly, we could do so as
follows: The objects or preoccupations of the mind that
arise and disappear are the truth of stress. The mental
act that enters into and takes possession of those objects
is the truth of the cause of stress. The mental act that
focuses in on those objects and examines them as they
arise and disappear is the truth of the Path; and the
mental act that lets go of those objects as they arise and
disappear is the truth of disbanding, or release -- i.e.,
that which knows the reality that doesn't arise and
are the four Noble Truths. Those who see these four Truths
directly for themselves will give rise to the noble path
and fruition termed 'stream-entry.' Such people are a
field of merit for the world: worthy of respect, worthy of
welcome, worthy of offerings and veneration.
possesses the qualities mentioned here qualifies rightly as
a member of the Sangha in line with the Doctrine and
Discipline taught by the Buddha, and may be called,
samici-patipanno, one whose conduct is masterful,
reaching the apex of the mundane level and becoming
B. Now we will discuss the second main
heading, the Noble Sangha, the family of the Noble Ones, which
may be joined by virtue of having developed one's inner
qualities, with no need to go through the formalities of the
Vinaya. The Noble Sangha, like the conventional Sangha, is
composed of four groups:
Stream-enterers: those who have reached the beginning
stage of the flow to nibbana. At most they will have to be
reborn only seven more times. They have developed enough
tranquillity and insight for the Path to converge in a
single mental instant, enabling them to gain true insight
into all phenomena -- mundane and transcendent -- as they
really are. When they see in this way, they have cut three
of the Fetters (sanyojana) that keep living beings
under the spell of the world. The Fetters they have cut
absolutely are --
Sakkaya-ditthi: the view that the body -- together
with its properties, aggregates, and sense media --
belongs to the self. Stream-enterers, unlike ordinary
run-of-the-mill people, don't hold that these things are
the self or belong to the self. They see them simply as
common property -- that we didn't bring them when we came
and won't take them when we go -- and that they arise
simply through kamma.
Vicikiccha: doubt and uncertainty about the practices
one is following. Stream-enterers have no such doubts,
because they have reached the quality attained by the
Silabbata-paramasa: attachment to customs or
traditions that are held to be good in this way or that.
Stream-enterers are not attached to any external practices
dealing with actions or manners.
Fetters, stream-enterers have cut absolutely, once and for
all. They have attained the noble quality of having closed
off completely the four states of deprivation. In other
words, they are destined never again to be born in hell, on
the level of the angry demons, the level of the hungry
ghosts, or the level of common animals. This is what it
means to close off all four states of deprivation.
Once-returners: those who have gained the second level
of Awakening, who will attain nibbana after being born once
more in the world. Once-returners have cut three Fetters,
like stream-enterers, but have also reduced the amount of
desire, anger, and delusion in their hearts. (They know how
to keep the mind within bounds.)
Non-returners: those who have awakened to the third
level and who will never again return to the human world.
After they die they will be born in the Brahma worlds on the
levels of the Pure Abodes, there to attain nibbana. They
have absolutely abandoned five of the Fetters --
Kamaraga: passion and delight caused by the power of
sensual desires and sensual objects.
Patigha: irritation and displeasure caused by the
power of anger.
Arahants: those who have awakened to the ultimate level
of the four Noble Truths and have reached the quality of
deathlessness, free from all the fermentations of
defilement; whose ignorance, craving, attachments, and kamma
have ended. Arahants have abandoned their Fetters by means
of the factors of the highest of the noble paths. The
Fetters they have abandoned are ten:
Ruparaga: passion for the sense of form that can act
as the object of rupa jhana.
Aruparaga: passion for formless phenomena, such as the
feeling of pleasure that comes from seclusion.
Mana: conceiving or construing oneself to be like this
Uddhacca: restlessness and distraction, being carried
away with one's thoughts. The thoughts on this level deal
with the activity of discernment, which is something good,
but they go out of bounds.
Avijja: ignorance, i.e., not recognizing stress, its
cause, its disbanding, and the path to its disbanding --
in short, not being acquainted with the conditioned
phenomena (sankhata dhamma) that exist within each
of us; not being acquainted with the unconditioned (asankhata
dhamma), which is a genuine property, existing
naturally. This, briefly, is what avijja means.
meaning for avijja is not being acquainted with the way we
are -- e.g., not recognizing our concepts of the past and
thus becoming immersed in them; not recognizing our
concepts of the future; not recognizing the present, which
is the important aspect of all physical and mental
phenomena. Thus, delusion with regard to all three time
periods is called avijja: counterfeit knowledge, falling
short of the four genuine Truths.
Fetters, Arahants -- both men and women -- have cut
absolutely, freeing themselves from every sort of bond or
domination, so that their hearts are brilliant and dazzling,
like the full moon in a cloudless sky. This is
samici-patipanno -- one whose conduct is masterful -- on
the transcendent level.
The four groups
mentioned here are termed the Ariya Sangha, the Noble
Community, which can be found only in Buddhism. Therefore, all
Buddhists who daily pay homage to the Sangha should make
themselves aware of what the Sangha is, of how genuine or
counterfeit the members of the Sangha are. Otherwise, our
respect will be blind and misguided, ignorant of the true
nature of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. We should use our
judgment and reason to be selective so that we can help one
another look after the state of the religion, bringing it into
proper line with the principles of the Buddha's teachings.
The Sangha can be
compared to a tree: Some members are like the heartwood,
others are like the sapwood, others are like the outer bark,
and still others are like parasitic creepers. Another popular
analogy is to compare the Sangha to a jewel. Now, there are
many kinds of jewels, just as there are many parts to a tree:
artificial gems, zircons, rubies, amethysts, sapphires,
emeralds, and diamonds. Just as all of these are called
jewels, and are all of differing value, so it is with the
members of the Sangha. Whoever is rich in discernment will
obtain a valuable jewel as an adornment. Whoever is poor in
discernment will end up with nothing but artificial gems or
bits of gravel: Some people believe that all who wear the
yellow robe are alike. They 'make donations to the yellow
robe,' or 'pay respect to the yellow robe,' or 'make donations
to the virtuous'... Thus I ask that all Buddhists make a point
of learning where the gems of the religion that we as a nation
revere may be found.
A person who
doesn't know what the Sangha is, is like a child who doesn't
know his family and relatives -- who doesn't know who his
father is, who his mother is, who his elder brothers and
sisters are. When this is the case, he has no one to rely on.
If he tries to rely on others, he can do so only as long as he
has money in his pockets. As soon as he runs out of money,
he's in for trouble: His friends and companions are sure to
act as if they don't recognize him; and he can't turn to his
family and relatives because he doesn't know who they are. So
in the end he'll meet with nothing but suffering.
This is why we're
taught that, as long as we still have life, we shouldn't rest
complacent. We should urgently make the virtues of the Sangha
our guardians -- because our friend, the body, can be relied
on only as long as it doesn't die. And when the time comes,
who will care for us aside from our guardians, the virtues of
waste our time engrossed simply with the life of the body for,
as far as I can see, there's nothing to the life of the body
but eating and then sleeping, sleeping and then eating again.
If we let ourselves get stuck simply on the level of sleeping
and eating, we're headed for trouble. This can be illustrated
with a story:
Once in a village
by the seaside, there came a time of unbalance in the natural
elements, and large numbers of the livestock -- the water
buffaloes -- died of the plague. The men of the village,
fearing that the disease would spread, took the buffalo
carcasses and threw them into the sea. As the carcasses
floated away from shore, a flock of crows came to feed on them
for many days. Each day, when the crows had eaten their fill,
they would fly back to spend the night in the trees by the
shore; and then would fly out the following dawn to continue
eating. As days passed, and the carcasses floated further and
further out to sea, some of the crows -- seeing the hardships
in flying back to shore -- decided to spend the night floating
on the carcasses; others of the flock, though, didn't mind the
hardships and continued flying back to shore every evening.
Finally, when the
carcasses had floated so far out to sea that flying back and
forth was no longer possible, the flock decided to abandon
that source of food and to search for a new source of food on
land. One of the crows, though, had stayed with the carcasses;
when he saw that his fellows were no longer coming to claim a
share of the food, he became overjoyed, thinking that the food
he had would last him a long time. He became so engrossed in
his eating that he never thought of looking back to shore. As
the carcasses went floating further and further out, swarms of
fish came from below to devour them until there was nothing
left to eat. Finally, the remains of the carcasses sank deep
into the sea; and at that point, the crow decided that the
time had come to fly back to shore. With this in mind, he flew
to the north, but didn't see land. He flew to the south, to
the east and west, but didn't see land. Finally, he ran out of
strength and could fly no further, and so lowered his wings
and dropped into the sea, where he became food for the fishes.
This is human
life. If we let ourselves become engrossed only with eating
and sleeping and physical pleasures, without searching for
virtue -- i.e., if we don't practice the virtues of the Sangha
as we've been taught -- we're sure to reap the rewards --
suffering -- just like the crow who fell to his death in the
sea. This story is about us: The sea stands for the world, the
flood of rebirth; the buffalo carcasses stand for the body;
the trees on the shore stand for the Dhamma, and the crows
stand for the heart -- i.e., sometimes we feel like practicing
the Dhamma and sometimes we don't.
The virtues of
the Sangha are subtle, deep, and hard to perceive. If we don't
have knowledge of ourselves, we won't be able to see them,
just as a mute person doesn't know how to speak his native
Here I would like
to tell another story to illustrate what it means not to know
the virtues of the Sangha. Once there was a mute person who
made his living by playing a conch shell trumpet. Now, the way
he played the conch shell was to make it sound like human
voices or animal calls. When he had perfected his skill, he
wandered about the cities and country towns, playing his
conch. One day he went to play in a village deep in the
countryside. As he was about to reach the village, he stopped
to rest under the shade of a tree and picked up his conch to
practice for a moment. Within minutes a swarm of people,
hearing the sound of the conch, came bursting from the village
to see what it was. They came across the mute man sitting
under the tree and so asked him, 'What was that beautiful
sound we heard a moment ago?' The mute man pointed to the
conch shell lying nearby. The people, thinking that they had
heard the cry of the conch, ran over to tap on it to make it
cry again, but it didn't make a sound. Some of them picked it
up and tried shaking it, but still no sound, so they put it
back down. Others turned it over to see exactly where its cry
came from, but no matter what they did, the sound of the conch
wouldn't come out. So they ran back to the mute person.
The mute person
didn't know what to say, but he could tell from their actions
that they wanted to know what made the sound of the conch come
out in such a variety of calls, so he pointed to his mouth.
The villagers ran to take a look. They had him open his mouth
and looked up and down inside, but didn't see how it could be
made to sound. So the mute man flickered his tongue for them
to see. With this, they realized that the sound came from the
mute man's tongue; and so they tried flickering their own
tongues, but no beautiful sounds came out. So they ran back to
the mute man, who blew air out of his mouth, meaning that the
sound came from the breath. They tried blowing air from their
own mouths, but still no beautiful sounds. Finally, the mute
man reached for the conch, put it to his lips -- and out came
the beautiful sounds: the sounds of people crying, people
laughing, people wailing and mourning, the sounds of birds,
mice, and forest beasts.
So it is with us:
If we don't know how to train ourselves so as to attain the
virtues of the Sangha, we won't know how beneficial to us the
Sangha can be. We'll become uncivilized savages, not knowing
whether the Sangha is good or bad, and we'll end up like the
villagers who didn't know where the sound of the conch came
doesn't refer to anything distant: The mute man, producing
various sounds from his conch shell, stands for preaching
monks. For example, sometimes they try to be correct, proper,
and principled in their preaching; sometimes they preach like
animals, i.e., using a song-like voice or cracking jokes that
go beyond the bounds of the Dhamma and Vinaya. In this way,
they are like the man blowing the conch. As for the villagers
who came running wide-eyed to hear the sound of the conch,
they stand for Buddhist lay people who don't understand the
virtues of the Sangha and thus are destined not to find the
Sangha, just as the villagers couldn't find the sound of the
conch. When this is the case, they will simply shell out money
to hear the sound of conch trumpets, without any thought of
the practices taught by the Buddha. Monks will be deluded into
blowing conch shells for their living, without any thought of
the qualities of the Sangha; and so our religion will
degenerate day by day, becoming ultimately a theater or
playhouse for the world.
This has been an
extended discussion of the Triple Gem. If we were to put it
briefly, there wouldn't be a great deal to say. We've kept the
discussion drawn-out in this way so as to show the general
usefulness of the Triple Gem for those who revere it. If you
want to go for refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in a
way that will reach their genuine benefits, then you should
gather their main points into yourself, training yourself
so as to give rise to the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha in your heart. This is where the value of the
Triple Gem lies.
* * *
The gist of our
discussion of the Triple Gem comes down simply to this:
'Buddha' can be divided into a number of levels. The
'Buddha' of his physical representatives refers to Buddha
images, stupas, and places worthy of veneration such as his
birthplace, the place of his Awakening, the place where he
delivered his first sermon, and the place where he entered
total nibbana, which at present lie within the boundaries of
India and Nepal. All of these things qualify on the physical
level as symbols of the Buddha for those who revere them, but
they may be disqualified if the people who revere them lack
the necessary inner qualifications. Take Buddha images as an
example: You should understand Buddha images as having three
characteristic types --
inhabited by angry demons;
2. those inhabited by divinities;
3. those that people of virtue have invested with the
potency of the mind -- these can be termed, 'inhabited by
In other words,
Buddha images can be beneficial or harmful depending on how
they are used by those who revere them. Even people who use
them as charms in committing robbery, casting spells, or
performing black magic may get results because of the power of
their conviction. But if we can be selective and use these
images in ways that are right, the potency they contain will
benefit us, bringing us blessings and protecting us from
danger. Thus, the symbols of the Buddha can function in
various ways. There is much more to this topic, but if we were
to discuss it here, it would draw things out even further.
These images can either qualify or be disqualified as symbols
of the Buddha, depending on the people who revere them, but
the images in themselves are neutral.
point for people who hope for true welfare, though, is to
invest themselves with the qualities that serve on the inner
level as symbols of reverence for the Buddha. These qualities
are three --
Pañña: the intuitive discernment and cognitive skill
that come from concentrating the mind.
Vimutti: purity and release from mental defilement: This
is the essence of 'Buddha-ratanam,' the gem of the
Dhamma: Good Dhamma is of three sorts
Pariyatti: This refers to studying and memorizing
passages from the Canon, which qualifies on the physical
level as a symbol of the Dhamma taught by the Buddha. But
this, too, can either qualify or be disqualified as a
symbol. Some people, for example, use passages from the
Dhamma in committing robbery or casting spells. For
instance, they repeat the chant of the virtues of the Dhamma
or the phrase, 'Namo buddhaya,' three times or seven
times, and then commit thievery or highway robbery,
believing that they have made themselves invincible. Or when
casting spells, they repeat the phrase, 'Na-metta, mo-karuna,
da-love me, I won't go, you come, omasavaha' -- they say
that this makes a woman really fall for a man. This sort
of thing disqualifies the phrase, even though its
original meaning may have been something good.
But if we
revere the Dhamma and make use of it through the power of
our conviction, memorizing passages of Pali for the sake of
what is good and pure, and then putting them into use, they
will give rise to merit. For example, if we repeat the
phrase, 'Dhammam saranam gacchami (I go to the Dhamma
for refuge),' or 'Namo buddhaya (Homage to the
Buddha),' with heartfelt conviction, giving rise to a sense
of joy, this mental state can then serve to protect us from
certain kinds of accidents and harm. We may reap real
benefits from the phrase we repeat. This is something that
people who have respect for the Dhamma should investigate
then, can qualify as symbols of the Dhamma -- or be
disqualified, if we don't know their true aims.
Patipatti: This refers to behaving sincerely in line
with the Buddha's teachings:
Sila: putting our thoughts, words, and deeds in order.
Samadhi: keeping the mind firmly intent in the four
levels of jhana, free from the mental Hindrances.
Pativedha: This refers to extinguishing defilement
completely, releasing the mind from all suffering and
stress. This qualifies as the essence of the Dhamma.
All three of the
levels mentioned here form the inner qualifications of those
who truly revere and follow the Dhamma.
Sangha: If we translate this as a substantive, it refers
to those who shave their heads and wear the yellow robe as a
sign of having been ordained. These people can qualify on the
external level as symbols of the Sangha or they may be
disqualified. To qualify, they have to meet three criteria:
Vatthu-sampatti: The individual to be ordained as a monk
has to possess the proper characteristics as stipulated in
Sangha-sampatti: The monks who gather to witness the
ordination constitute a legitimate quorum.
Sima-sampatti: The place in which the ordination is held
has had its boundaries properly defined.
individual ordains in line with these criteria, he qualifies
as a symbol of the Sangha. But viewed from another angle, if
the individual has met these criteria and becomes a monk but
doesn't behave in line with the Dhamma and Vinaya --
disobeying the training rules established by the Buddha,
committing major and minor offenses with no sense of shame --
he becomes disqualified on the personal level, just as a
Buddha image that has been properly consecrated but is then
put to improper uses by evil or lowminded people is bound to
lead to harm. A monk with no sense of conscience or shame is
like a Buddha image inhabited by an angry demon. Normally,
when an angry demon takes possession of a person, it reveals
itself by its behavior. For example, when some angry demons
take possession, they like to run around naked, harassing
other people. If a person has no sense of conscience or shame,
it's as if he were possessed by an angry demon. In other
words, if he doesn't have any moral restraint, it's as if he
lacked the clothing needed to hide his nakedness. And when
this is the case, he is disqualified as a symbol of the
A person who
meets the three external qualifications mentioned above has to
behave in line with the inner virtues of the Sangha --
Caga: relinquishing external and internal enemies
(worries and concerns).
Sila: keeping one's words and deeds in proper order.
To have these two
qualities is to qualify as a human being (supatipanno).
Hiri: having a sense of shame at the thought of doing
evil; not daring to do evil in public or private.
Ottappa: having a sense of dread at the thought of the
results of doing evil.
If a monk has
these qualities (termed 'deva-dhamma,' the principles
of heavenly beings), it's as if he were inhabited by a
celestial being (uju-patipanno).
Samadhi: steadying the mind so as to reach the first
level of jhana and then developing it up to the fourth
level, making it radiant and free from the mental
Hindrances. If a monk does this, it's as if he were
inhabited by a Brahma, for he has the inner qualifications
of a Brahma (ñaya-patipanno).
Pañña, vijja, vimutti: gaining release from the mundane
level, abandoning the three Fetters beginning with
self-identification, reaching the Dhamma of the Buddha,
attaining the state where we are guaranteed by the Buddha as
being upright, dependable, honest, and sincere toward the
Dhamma and Vinaya; gaining Awakening following his example,
becoming a reliable member of the Sangha. Such people are
termed 'ariya sotapanna' -- Noble Ones who have
reached the stream -- and deserve to be called 'visuddhi-deva,'
divinities through purity, whose virtues are higher than
those of human beings, deities, Indra, or Brahma. Even
though such people are still subject to death and rebirth,
they are not like other human beings. The pure aspect of
their heart will never again become defiled. Thus they
deserve to be called, in a partial sense, divinities through
All four of these
qualities form the inner qualifications of the Sangha.
Speaking in terms
of these inner qualifications, every person can become a
member of the Sangha. But if we don't develop these qualities
within ourselves and then take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma,
and Sangha only on the external level, how will we get the
full benefits? We're taught that if we can't depend on
ourselves, there is no way we can hope to depend on others.
For example, if an evil person breaks the law, commits
robbery, and then asks the government to give him help, you
can rest assured that the only help the government will give
him will be to build a place for him to live in discomfort --
a jail. In the same way, if we don't behave in line with the
virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, how can we go
around taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha? The
natho, ko hi natho paro siya.
'The self is its own refuge, for who else could be refuge?'
Thus we should
develop the inner qualifications of the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha within ourselves. Then we will belong to the company of
the Buddha's followers. If we belong to the religion as lay
women, we are called 'upasika.' If we belong as lay
men, we are called 'upasaka.' If we observe the ten
precepts and are endowed with the virtues of the Sangha, we
are termed 'samanera.' If we take a vow to join the
community of those who fully observe the 227 precepts, we are
termed 'bhikkhu.' When we join the company of the
Buddha's followers in this way, all people in general who
practice and revere the teachings will benefit -- just as when
we meet the qualifications of a good citizen as set out by the
government: If we are trained and educated to be good, we are
bound to help the nation progress and prosper. But if we don't
view ourselves as part of the nation and don't think of making
a living to support ourselves, and instead simply go around
looking for pleasure or for help from others, the results are
bound to be bad.
Therefore, we as
Buddhists have to study and practice before we can be
Buddhists of virtue and value. We will then reap rewards in
the visible present. And even if we are no longer able to live
in this world, then when our bodies die and we head for
another world, we have a good bourn awaiting us, as in the
verse from the Maha-samaya Sutta:
buddham saranam katase
Na te gamissanti apaya-bhumim.
Pahaya manusam deham
reach the refuge of the Buddha (in their own hearts, with
purity) will close off all four of the lower realms (such as
hell). When they leave this life they are bound for a good
bourn (heaven), there to fill the ranks of the gods.'
dhammam sangham jivitam yava-nibbanam saranam gacchami.
'I go to the
Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as my life and refuge till
* * *
The third of the three collections forming the Pali Canon,
composed of systematic treatises based on lists of categories
drawn from the Buddha's teachings.
States of deprivation, i.e., the four lower realms of
existence: rebirth in hell, as a hungry ghost, as an angry
demon, or as a common animal. In Buddhism, none of these
states are regarded as eternal conditions.
Sense media -- the six senses (including the intellect as the
sixth) and their respective objects.
inhabitant of the higher heavens of form and formlessness, a
position earned -- but not forever -- through the cultivation
of virtue and meditative absorption, along with the attitudes
of limitless love, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity.
Change of lineage knowledge -- the glimpse of nibbana that
changes one from an ordinary, run-of-the-mill person to a
Absorption in a single object or preoccupation. Rupa-jhana
refers to absorption in a physical sensation; arupa-jhana, to
absorption in a mental notion or state.
Acts of intention that result in states of being and birth.
Aggregate. The five aggregates are the component parts of
sensory perception; physical and mental phenomena as they are
directly experienced: form (sense data), feeling, perception,
thought-formations, and consciousness.
Liberation; the unbinding of the mind from greed, anger, and
delusion; from sensations and mental acts. As this term is
also used to refer to the extinguishing of a fire, it carries
the connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. (According
to the physics taught at the time of the Buddha, the property
of fire exists in a latent state to a greater or lesser degree
in all objects. When activated, it seizes and sticks to its
fuel. When extinguished, it becomes unbound.)
Hindrance; one of five mental qualities that hinder the mind
from attaining concentration and discernment: sensual desire,
ill will, sloth & torpor, restlessness & anxiety, and
name of the most ancient recension of the Buddhist scriptures
now extant; and -- by extension -- of the language in which it
The first of the three collections forming the Pali Canon,
dealing with the disciplinary rules of the monastic order. The
Buddha's own name for the religion he founded was, 'this
Dhamma-Vinaya' -- this Doctrine and Discipline.