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The Cycle of Suffering for Food
Direct Knowledge of Consciousness
Perceiving Arising and Passing Away
Profound Knowledge of Suffering
Profound Knowledge of Not-self
Profound Knowledge of the Aggregate of Matter
Dispelling Knowledge of the Nutrient of Consciousness
Profound Knowledge of the Nutrient of Contact
Profound Knowledge of the Nutrient of Volition
Exposition of Mentality and Materiality
Explanation of Knowledge of Comprehension
Explanation of Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away
Meditation on the Material Aggregate
This was a traditional sermon given by the Ledi Sayādaw to his devotees in 1901, at the age of 55, when he would already have been famous in Burma. It was later published in book form in Burmese, and that was translated to English by Tin Shwe in 1986.
I have done my usual editing job of reducing the use of Pāḷi, and checking that where quotations are used that they match the spellings used in the Pāḷi texts of the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana edition. There are some variant readings. The Sayādaw would have been familiar with the older edition from the fifth Saṅgāyana that is housed in Mandalay, and is known as The World’s Largest Book. The three phases of uppāda, ṭhiti, bhaṅga, I have translated as arising, stasis, and dissolution. Stasis is closer to the meaning of ṭhiti, which the Venerable Nārada translates as “static” in the Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha.
Words in bold blue text are quoted directly from the Pāḷi. This style of Nissaya, or word-by-word commentary is common in discourses by Burmese Sayādaws.
I have added an index, which also serves as a glossary of Pāḷi words, some footnotes, and several cross-references to the Dictionary of Pali Proper Names and elsewhere.
This edition includes many proofing corrections suggested by Antonio Costanzo.
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa
“Kabaḷīkāre bhikkhave āhāre pariññāte pañca kāmaguṇiko rāgo pariññāto hoti, pañca kāmaguṇike rage pariññāte (ariyasāvakassa) natthi taṃ saṃy ojanaṃ, yena saṃyojanena saṃyutto ariyasāvako puna imaṃ lokaṃ āgaccheyya.” ¹
“Monks, the noble disciple who has comprehended thoroughly the four nutrient factors of food that are to be eaten, drunk, chewed, and tasted can discern the lust for visible objects, audible objects, odorous objects, sapid objects, and tangible objects. After comprehending that sensual lust, my noble disciple who has been bound and entangled by those lustful fetters might come back again by rebirth to this plane of eleven existences of desire. However, he has no binding fetters to be reborn again in the plane of desire.”
The one who has consummate knowledge of the nutrient factors of food conquers sensual lust by the same knowledge that leads him to the realm of Brahma, setting him free from conception in the sixteen existences of the plane of desire. The consummate knowledge of the nutrient factors of food leads him, step by step in serial order, to direct knowledge (ñāta-pariññā), analytical knowledge (tīraṇa-pariññā),² and dispelling knowledge (pahāna-pariññā), which means that he is the conqueror of those factors.
Here, I shall explain a little more about these three factors:
“Āhāraṃ jānāti, āhārasamudayaṃ jānāti, āhāranirodhaṃ jānāti, āhāranirodhagāmini paṭipadaṃ jānāti.”
“One knows the suffering for food, the cause of suffering for food, the cessation of suffering for food, and the way leading to the cessation of suffering for food.”
These are the four stages of direct knowledge preceding the contemplation of the three characteristics.
The suffering that sentient beings undergo in seeking the nutrient factors of food for the sake of maintaining their livelihood should be known as great suffering. We can know the suffering of seeking food both day and night for our livelihood excluding the period of sleep of those sentient beings that live either on land, in the water, or in the air like birds. This is the first cycle of suffering for the sake of the nutrient factors of food that should be known.
There are countless dangers involved in seeking food, property, and wealth. In the continent of the rose apple (Jambudīpa) in a single day, there will be numerous land dwelling beings that die due to dangers met while seeking food, property, and wealth. It is not hard to guess the number of deaths among creatures living in rivers and oceans. This is the second cycle of suffering in connection with the nutrient factors of food.
There also exists the fire of greed, the fire of hatred, and the fire of delusion born of the relentless desire in seeking food, property, and wealth for the livelihood of sentient beings. In spite of one’s efforts and the aforesaid three kinds of fire one may fail to obtain them, and failure gives rise to the appearance of the same three kinds of fire and suffering. If one obtains the things one wants for one’s livelihood, then one cultivates the aforesaid three sorts of fire by hoarding the acquired food and property because of the fear of losing them. This is the third cycle of suffering born of desire for the nutrient factors of food.
In this world, there is no greater wrong action than that of killing sentient beings in order to get food and sustain one’s own life. The number of animals that do not eat the flesh of others will be very small among those that live on land and in water. There will not be one in ten million. Similarly, all should know about the wrong action of stealing things that are not given to us and so on. This is the fourth cycle of suffering of wrong actions concerning the nutrient factors of food.
The cycle of wrong actions performed daily in connection with seeking the nutrient factors of food casts the sentient beings living on land, in water, and in the air, down into the lower realms. If the beings inhabiting the four lower realms are divided into billions of groups, most of them are in those lower realms because of wrongly obtaining food for their livelihood, and there will not be one group among them that is there for any other reason. Therefore, in the countless solar systems of the universe, there will be found innumerable beings inhabiting the four lower realms because of wrong actions done in seeking food for their livelihood.
This is the fifth cycle of suffering concerning the nutrient factors of food. Up to now, there are five cycles of suffering concerning the nutrient factors of food before the food is actually eaten.
Having swallowed or eaten food there is the suffering involved in answering the calls of nature. There is also the suffering experienced in seeing the appearance of disgusting matter such as excrement, urine, tears, secretions of eyes, nasal mucus, saliva, spittle, and phlegm, which appear like an ever-flowing stream of spring water. After being swallowed, the food in the stomach spreads to all parts of the body and produces internally putrid and foul smells that also give rise to suffering. This is the first cycle of results experienced after swallowing the nutrient factors of food.
Food can also cause sores and diseases that damage the eyes and ears and thus bring about suffering. There is also the suffering caused by various kinds of diseases such as leprosy, asthma, and small-pox. Moreover, there is the suffering from death caused by those diseases. This is the second cycle of suffering experienced after swallowing the nutrient factors of food.
The multifarious defilements (kilesa) such as greed cannot arise in those beings who have no food in their stomachs. Only after the body is fortified by food, can the defilements become active, fierce, and violent. With an empty stomach, even Sakka the king of the Devas will not have the desire to indulge in pleasures and revelries together with his consorts. After filling the stomach, all the various fires of the defilements can flare up and burn fiercely. The functions of greed, hatred, and delusion can manifest in one’s thoughts, words, and deeds. This is the third type of suffering due to the defilements, which arise after the nutrient factors of food have been swallowed.
The suffering involving the ten wrong actions manifested in the world by fighting battles, gaining a livelihood by fishing, hunting, theft, and the killing and torture of animals. This is the fourth cycle of suffering involving wrong actions for obtaining food.
The suffering in the four lower realms as a result of wrong actions can be known in the same way as shown formerly. This is the fifth cycle of suffering as a result of eating food. Here is the end of the explanation of the five cycles of suffering for swallowed food.
There are ten cycles of suffering; five for the first part and five for their results. This, in brief, is direct knowledge concerning the nutrient factors of food.
There are many points that will be described in detail later. The first is “One knows the suffering for food (āhāraṃ jānāti).” This is accomplished when the four kinds of ignorance are seen on the attainment of the first direct knowledge.
The second is “One knows the cause of suffering for food (āhāra samudayaṃ jānāti), meaning that one fully comprehends that craving for the nutrient factors of food is the main cause to increase the suffering associated with food. As long as that craving exists, the aforesaid ten cycles of suffering for the nutrient factors of food always accompany sentient beings life after life, and in every realm of existence. When we are eating food such as rice, we keep the seeds (i.e. the root-cause) for continued rebirths in our stomachs. If we swallow, bereft of the knowledge of misery (ādīnava-ñāṇa), we will greedily relish each morsel of rice. This is the second direct knowledge.
The third is “One knows the cessation of suffering for food (āhāra nirodhaṃ jānāti).” This means it is not definite for all sentient beings to be followed by the ten cycles of suffering associated with the nutrient factors of food in the cycle of rebirth, the continuous process of the arising of material and mental qualities whose beginning and end are unfathomable. If one tries with enough effort, there is the possibility of their cessation. Comprehending this is “Āhāra nirodhaṃ jānāti.”
If the craving for the nutrient factors of food ceases once and for all, then the ten cycles of suffering that it generates will follow suit. This is the third direct knowledge.
In the case of the fourth direct knowledge “One knows the way leading to the cessation of suffering caused by the nutrient factors of food (āhāra nirodha gāminipaṭipadaṃ jānāti),” is the comprehension of the path leading to the cessation of suffering provided the Noble Eightfold Path is followed. This is the fourth direct knowledge.
End of the explanation of direct knowledge.
There are three kinds of analytical knowledge (tīraṇa-pariññā):–
The aggregates of all beings are divided into the aggregate of matter and the aggregate of mind. In other words, they can be divided into a material group and a mental group. They are referred to collectively as the material entity and the mental entity. The collection of the elements of earth, water, fire, and air including the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body in the form of a mass is called the material entity. The collection of mental properties such as consciousness and volition is called the mental entity. A person is a composite of the material and mental entities. The material entity is undergoing momentary death continuously even in an hour. The mental entity is also subject to momentary death in the same way. The vivid discernment of these two kinds of momentary death is called the profound knowledge of impermanence (anicca-pariññā).
The material and mental entities subject to impermanence and faced with death (change) at every moment do not belong to the various kinds of happiness (sukha), but only to suffering (dukkha). The discernment that enables one to realise and decide in this way is called the profound knowledge of suffering (dukkha-pariññā).
In this world, the concept considered to be and regarded as a person, a being, I, another, a man, or a woman is thought to be a single unchanging entity throughout the entire life. No one can see the repeated deaths and rebirths (paṭisandhi) that occur even in the space of an hour. The framework or substance of that concept called a person, being, I, another, a man or a woman is called a self (atta), which has a soul (jīva). That person is considered to be an entity as long as he or she is alive. The self or soul is believed to be only one and unchanging throughout life, even for a person who lives up to the age of a hundred. The repeated deaths and rebirths do not seem to have occurred in the course of that one hundred years. Only the single event of conception in the mother’s womb and the single event of death at the cessation of materiality born from kamma (kammaja-rūpa), at the age of one hundred are taken to be true rebirth and death. Those who die at the age of eighty or ninety are regarded in the same way.
The soul is thought to abide continuously for a person’s entire life even if it lasts for a hundred years. There is said to be only one unchanging soul for this person. That person is not thought to undergo repeated decay and death. The life-span of a being in the celestial plane of the Cātummahārājika-devā is five hundred celestial years. That being is believed to be one single entity for as long as he happens to be in that plane and lives for five hundred years without undergoing any change. The course of this five hundred years is a single life time for which there is only a single soul. It is believed that there are no repeated deaths and there is no destruction of the soul. The same belief is held for those beings in the higher celestial planes like Tāvatiṃsa and Brahmaloka.
The five types of personality-view (sakkāya-diṭṭhi) are as follows:–
The one who is endowed with a soul is considered and believed to be a person or being that gives rise to various people, devas, Brahmā, elephants, horses, cattle, mother, father, and so on.
Men and women are born from other persons or beings according to gender and sex as male or female.
When, for example, clay is fashioned into the shapes of men, devas, and so forth, the substance is earth. Similarly, it is considered that a person or a being has an essential substance that is none other than the self (atta). It is thought that it is this very self that carries out various physical functions such as speaking, shouting, and the movements of the limbs in walking. The self is considered to be an integral part of the person or being and is not separate from it.
The soul (jīva), is believed to be the essential substance of the self (atta). When the soul and self co-exist, the soul can last for a long time.
The person, being and self are taken as the main objects in the question: “Who is that man or woman? This is me or someone else.”
The soul is held to be the main factor in the following sentences: “He is ten years old. He is fifteen years old. He is alive or dead, etc.”
Annihilationism (uccheda-diṭṭhi) includes one or some of the following beliefs:–
Eternalism (sassata-diṭṭhi) includes one or more of the following beliefs:–
Moreover, annihilationism includes the following view:–
Self or soul exist apart from the material and mental aggregates. The aggregates are destroyed only once in a lifetime and so is self and soul.
Eternalism is the following view:–
The material and mental aggregates cease only once in a lifetime. Self and soul exists apart from the material and mental aggregates and is everlasting and is not subject to decay and death.
Annihilationism is the following view:–
The self or soul ceases only once in every existence. It wanders in the endless cycles of existence (saṃsāra), the beginning and end of which are unknowable. A new self or soul arises in every new existence.
Nihilism (natthika-diṭṭhi), causelessness (ahetuka-diṭṭhi), and moral impotency (akiriya-diṭṭhi) each maintain that wholesome and unwholesome actions, their results, and a person, self, or soul are viable only for one life. There is no transmigration from the former existence to the next existence. There is only the present existence for them. The cessation of the present existence is the final one. There will be no evil effects in the future existence for unwholesome actions done in this present life. In the same way, there will be no fortunate effects for the wholesome deeds done in the present existence. This is the difference between the ordinary nihilist view and the major three kinds of wrong view.
The insight meditator who is endowed with the profound knowledge of impermanence, can clearly discern the following three facts:–
The meditator realises that there is no such thing as a person, being, self, or soul that ceases only once in a lifetime and does not die again and again.
The notion that a person, being, or soul has to face death only once in a lifetime is wrong. The material and mental aggregates are dying frequently even in the space of an hour. Likewise the idea that a person, being, self, or soul establishes a new life only once at the moment of conception in the mother’s womb is wrong. The repeated arising of the material and mental aggregates can be seen clearly and directly from moment to moment. Therefore, the material and mental aggregates are not a person, a being, a self, a soul, I, he, she, man, woman, deva, etc. They are not a self. There is no person, being, self, or soul. These terms are only used in common parlance. The insight realises there is no such thing as a self and this realisation is called analytical knowledge of not-self (anatta-pariññā). This is the difference between the three kinds of analytical knowledge.
Concerning the three kinds of profound knowledge in connection with meditation on the nutrient factors of food, the profound knowledge of impermanence (anicca-pariññā), will be explained a little later.
As this matter is connected with direct knowledge, the detailed explanations that are not included in the aforesaid explanation of direct knowledge (ñāta-pariññā) will be dealt with later.
Nutriment or food (āhāra) means the powerful quality that chiefly nourishes and sustains the material and mental aggregates concerned. There are four kinds of nutriment; one kind of material nutriment, and three kinds of mental nutriment that will be explained later.
The material nutriment (ojā) is the nutritive essence of matter. It can be called the essential element of the aggregate of matter that is divided into the internal nutritive essence and the external nutritive essence. The internal nutritive essence is that which is included in the internal material entity from the moment of the appearance of rebirth-linking consciousness (paṭisandhi-citta) occurring at the first moment of a being’s life. The external nutritive essence is that which is extracted from the food consumed by the mother and spreads into the material qualities of the embryo during gestation. The period during the few weeks of the formation of material groups, sex, and heart, and whenever one ingests food in the course of a lifetime afterwards.
Why must the external nutritive essence support the aggregate of matter continuously from the second or third week after the formation of the material groups? It is because without the supply of the external nutritive essence, the tender internal nutritive essence would be consumed and the aggregate of matter would be destroyed by the strong internal heat.
Consider this example of an oil-lamp. After an oil-soaked, cotton wick is set alight, both the wick and oil will be burnt up within a short time because of the intense heat if there is no extra sesame-oil in the lamp. The flame will be extinguished in a moment after both the wick and the oil are burnt up. If the lamp is again filled up with oil, the powers of oil and heat will be proportionate and the fuel and flame will last longer. In the same way, without the supply of the external nutritive essence, the internal body heat will quickly burn away and the internal material element and nutritive essence will be exhausted within a very short time. It is very similar to the aforementioned example of the oil-lamp.
In this world, it is natural for fire to consume and burn any inflammable matter with which it comes into contact. For example, oil, when added to firewood and set alight, will burn it. This is the characteristic of the fire element (tejo). In the body, the fire element present therein burns up the co-existing oily essence as well as the ‘fuel’ of the earth element (paṭhavī), which serves as the foundation for the co-existing material qualities with the characteristics of both hardness and softness. Therefore, no material groups can survive for more than seventeen thought-moments. Within the brief duration of a blink of an eye or a flash of lightning, it is natural for them (the thought moments) to arise and disappear thousands of times. That is why, if the light of a lamp is to last for even a few hours, it is necessary to fill the lamp with oil and then refill it again before the fuel runs out. In the same way, it is necessary to supply the body with the external nutritive essence (food) regularly at least twice a day.
If the work of the internal heat present in the body is seen, one will be able to discern that all the aggregates, including those of men and deities, are constantly in a state of agitation and these are being consumed. That means it is natural for fire to ignite and burn the things that come into contact with and then, having consumed them totally, the fuel runs out and the fire is extinguished. This analogy also applies to the material and mental aggregates that constitute all living things, which have the fire and earth elements within them. Here, the constant state of agitation and flux refers to the appearance of the new material groups or the material groups that are called the properties of the fire. When these material groups increase and decrease, appear and disappear, are observed it seems as if they are moving to and fro. Of course, according to any ultimate reality (paramattha dhamma), they do not move at all. However, the continuous change to which the heat in the body is subject necessitates that the body be supplied with food twice a day if the aggregate of matters in the body are to be sustained.
One may also discern the changes that the aggregate of matters in the body undergo when food is taken twice a day and when the derived nourishment is exhausted.
How does the whole corporeal entity change totally from the old to the new? In the early morning, before having a meal, the material groups in the body are in need of nourishment. When a single morsel of food is swallowed and digested then there can arise new material qualities and groups. When the stomach is full the old material groups in the body disappear totally without a trace, and fresh, active material groups arise and revitalise the body. It is similar to how a dehydrated and withered lotus becomes fresh again when it is put into cold water.
In the case of a lotus, the old material aggregates are replaced by new material aggregates as follows. As soon as it is placed in the water, numbers of new fresh material qualities and groups begin to appear gradually. The old material qualities vanish group by group as the new ones appear. This process can be discerned by knowledge (ñāṇa). One can see that the withered lotus is gradually becoming fresh again. The continuous changes to the real material groups are due to the variation in temperature and this can be realised by knowledge.
It is true that the material qualities and groups never cease completely. They are only renewed again and again. This process is very subtle. It cannot be seen by the power of ordinary sight. It can only be discerned by insight knowledge. How can this be discerned? There are cold and hot material qualities in all things. The cold material qualities are not the hot material qualities and the hot ones are not the cold ones. They are opposites. Before a lotus flower was submerged in cold water its material change occurred as soon as it was dropped into the water. The hot material groups ceased at once and were replaced by cold material groups. In the dark of the night, when a lamp is lit in a dark room the dark material qualities and groups present disappear when the light appears. There is a sudden appearance of the material qualities of light.
The dark material qualities and groups are composed of:–
The material groups of light consist of the same elements: earth, water, fire, air, colour, odour, taste, and nutrition. The earth element is very subtle, as are water, fire, and air. As they are very subtle, their cessation is very swift.
Almost everyone knows that heat disappears quickly when a lotus is put into water. However, it is not generally understood that the disappearance of the heat is actually the cessation of the hot material groups (kalāpa). When a lotus is put into the water, one knows it is no longer a dry, warm lotus, but a cool, wet one. The sudden arising of the cold material groups is not easily noticed. The cold material qualities and the hot material qualities cannot co-exist. Therefore, when a lotus is revived by the cool water, the hot dry material elements disappear. The cold material qualities and the hot material qualities are opposites. So are the old and the new ones.
When a lotus is put into the water, then fresh material qualities arise and the old material qualities vanish. Try to observe this.
Looking at the cessation of the material qualities, it must be seen to be like the continuous dissolution of tiny bubbles. After swallowing food, one should try to see the continuous appearances of new material groups as tiny bubbles. Everyone will have noticed how people become tired, fatigued and depressed when their stomachs are empty. One can also see how sentient beings become energetic and refreshed as soon as they have eaten. Realising the difference between being fatigued or energetic, we must try to realise the change that a fresh supply of food causes in the body. This change must be discerned through profound insight knowledge.
The material entity when the body’s material qualities have been renewed after a morning meal can be active up to noon. After that time, as the body’s exhausted material qualities, slowly but steadily lose their vitality one feels tired and exhausted. After food is taken again, the material qualities are revived and renewed. The material entity that arose after breakfast has already passed away by the time one takes lunch. The material entity that arose after lunch has vanished by the time breakfast is eaten. Seeing the importance of taking external nutritive essence twice a day, the death of old material qualities and birth of new material qualities, should be discerned.
It is similar to the simultaneous disappearance of the image of a man reflected in a big bubble. In the same way, consciousness (citta), feeling (vedanā), perception (saññā), volition (cetanā), attention (manasikāra), initial application (vitakka), sustained application (vicāra), effort (viriya), greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), delusion (moha), confidence (saddhā), wisdom (paññā), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samādhi), generosity (dāna), morality (sīla), and mental development (bhāvanā) arise depending on the old materiality, disappearing simultaneously with the old materiality. This is how the material entity dies twice a day.
Thus, depending on the nutrient factors of food, the mental and material aggregates, or the mental and material entity undergo death and dissolution twice a day. This should be observed. This is only a brief exposition. An explanation of the deaths of the material and mental elements occurring in an hour and in the brief duration of a blink of an eye can be read in my Lakkhaṇa Dīpanī and the Vijjā Magga Dīpanī.
This is the exposition of analytical knowledge of impermanence.
In connection with the analytical knowledge of suffering (dukkha-pariññā), the suffering of death has already been explained briefly. Here, it shall be mentioned again in relation to the ten cycles of suffering.
The sustaining of the life, consciousness and corporeality of the sentient beings of the plane of sensual desire depends upon the internal nutritive essence and that in turn depends upon the external nutritive essence that is derived from cereals of paddy and corn; plants and vegetables from the land, water, forests and mountains and the flesh of animals.
As long as freedom from the material and mental aggregates of sensual desire is not attained there is no independence from the internal and external nutritive essences. If there is no liberation from those two types of nutritive essence, one cannot escape from the ten cycles of suffering that are derived from two kinds of nutritive essence. The sustenance of life, consciousness, and material and mental aggregates pertaining to the planes of sensual desire as well as the two sorts of nutritive essence are pressing and grinding the sentient beings of the sensual realms, as if with the mechanical rollers of the ten cycles of suffering. The beings of the sensual realms are like the inmates of the Khuracakka (razor-wheel)hell, who are being cut to pieces incessantly by sharp razor-blades, but they cannot escape due to the repeated births they undergo there so long as the results of their wrong actions are not exhausted. How terrible are those aggregates and the two kinds of nutritive essence! They are described as painful suffering which is very dreadful and horrible they are really unbearable types of suffering.
This is the suffering of the nutrient factors of food depicted vividly in connection with the ten cycles of suffering. Here ends the short explanation of the analytical knowledge of suffering.
There are three kinds of analytical knowledge of not-self (anatta-pariññā):–
The analytical knowledge of not-self should be contemplated in connection with suffering as follows:–
In accordance with their intrinsic nature, all sentient beings have a strong desire for bliss or pleasure. They fear and despise intolerable suffering. If the internal and external nutriments were indeed a self (atta) or soul (jīva), then they must conform to a person’s wishes. Food must then be a source of bliss and pleasure. There should not be any unbearable suffering connected with food. A person does not want to endure the suffering of fever, sores, and diseases. That person wants to be free from fever, sores, and diseases that develop day after day against his wishes. By developing their torturous strength, they can kill him. They may make him blind, deaf, or a leper. They also can make him suffer from asthma, small-pox, cholera, retching, and death. Therefore, the internal nutritive essence does not constitute either a person, a being, or a self. It is only not-self. It acts contrary to the wish of the person and it is not the self. Realising this, do the five aggregates dependent on internal nutritive essence not cause painful suffering? Of course they do! This is an important fact that should be fully understood.
This is a succinct exposition of the functions of suffering that should be contemplated.
The function of not-self, which is to be contrary to what one would wish, should be contemplated in respect of the suffering that it causes. The internal nutritive essence may be viable for the life span of a person if it complies with his wish. The person wants longevity, not death, dissolution, and cessation. If is were to last without any destruction and momentary death according to his wish for the whole life of that person it would not be necessary to supply any external nutritive essence. Then there would not be any painful suffering associated with livelihood or from the ten cycles of suffering arising from it. However, this is not so. It is not in accordance with the wish of that person. These numerous cessations and destructions demand the renewal of the external nutritive essence at least twice a day. There are also the daily functions connected with building up of the new internal nutritive qualities, establishing new aggregates and existences, and fortifying the continuation and maintaining one’s existence. As these functions are always necessary to be carried out for the sake of one’s livelihood the ten cycles of suffering are like the huge blade of a cutting machine that are a constant threat to all beings. In this way, the nature of not-self that goes against one’s wishes should be discerned.
It is the characteristic of not-self not to comply with one’s wishes and this should be contemplated.
Here ends the concise explanation of the analytical knowledge not-self.
In this body, the functions of impermanence manifests as repeated deaths and changes to the material and mental aggregates as well as to the internal and external nutritive essence. They are not obvious due to stark ignorance of impermanence (anicca-sammoha). The aforementioned functions of suffering and not-self are also hidden by stark ignorance of the truths of suffering and not-self. If this ignorance is dispelled, and the nature of impermanence and painful suffering inherent in the body, and the two kind of nutriments are also discerned as they truly are this is the realisation of analytical knowledge (tīraṇa pariññā). It is one of the ten categories of insight knowledge mentioned in the meditation section of the Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha:–
Among these three, knowledge by comprehension is the insight that realises that material and mental phenomena are not viable even for the brief duration of a blink of an eye or a flash of lightning. During that very short time, as they are subject to the laws of impermanence, suffering, and not-self, they cease, dissolve, and vanish many times. This fact is only discernable through insight knowledge and cannot be seen by the physical eye. It is not the result of reasoning or scriptural knowledge gained by studying the Abhidhamma. Insight knowledge is knowledge acquired by reasoning (cintāmaya-ñāṇa). Nowadays, knowledge acquired by hearing and learning (sutamaya-ñāṇa), is thought to be insight knowledge by many people, but mere intellectual learning is not insight.
When a match is struck, a flame the size of a mustard-seed is seen, and one sees how it flares up, burns, and is eventually extinguished. Similarly, the continuous material process — the starting-point, the middle, and the end — must be discerned objectively and clearly. This sort of knowledge is called knowledge of arising and passing away (udayabbaya-ñāṇa). The knowledge that comprehends the disappearance of the material and mental qualities is called knowledge of dissolution (bhaṅga-ñāṇa).
Here, dispelling knowledge (pahāna-pariññā) will be explained.
The defilements of those who have encountered the dispensation of former Buddhas and made efforts to develop insight are like withered trees, the roots of which have been eaten by insects. Those withered trees can again flourish if they benefit from good weather and irrigation. However the withered trees will soon topple in a storm or a flood. Those persons afflicted with defilements such as personality-view can eradicated them through direct knowledge and analytical knowledge. For them the attainment of dispelling knowledge is already achieved. A special effort to attain dispelling knowledge is not necessary. They can attain the path and its fruition at the end of hearing a short discourse or verse.
In former dispensations of the Buddha some people had performed deeds of generosity, morality, and study of the teachings. If their traditional practice of insight meditation merely involved the recitation of “Anicca, dukkha, anatta,” their defilements would still be deeply rooted. They can be eradicated only after the realisation of direct knowledge and analytical knowledge. If dispelling knowledge is developed over many months their defilements will be uprooted. These individuals need to make special efforts for months or years, to obtain dispelling knowledge.
The function of dispelling knowledge is the realisation of the following seven types of insight knowledge:–
Among the aforementioned seven types of insight knowledge, awareness of fearfulness concerning food is the knowledge that contemplates the material and mental aggregates as well as the internal and external nutriments on which they depend as being a grave danger. It is also the knowledge that discerns the occasion of taking those aggregates and nutriments as one’s own possessions, which prolongs the cycle of rebirth. Taking them to be one’s possessions in the present life is also a dreadful and harmful mistake. In other words, awareness of fearfulness is the profound knowledge of suffering. The craving that clings to those aggregates and the two kinds of nutriment is very strong. Craving and suffering are in opposition to each other. The contemplative and profound knowledge of suffering that discerns the ten cycles of suffering as well as the suffering associated with food, which culminates in craving is called awareness of fearfulness.
After contemplating the misery therein and realising that there is no reliable refuge from the ten cycles of suffering as long as one is not free from the sensual aggregates and the two kinds of nutriment is called knowledge of misery. Even Sakka the king of the six deva realms is seized by craving and the ten cycles of suffering arising from the two kinds of nutriment. If one is trapped in the cycle of suffering, one will not be able to escape, in future existences arising from the remaining nine cycles of suffering.
When the knowledge of misery matures, then the desire, craving, and clinging to the sensual aggregates and the two kinds of nutriment disappears. Meditators who see the body as an object of loathing feel strong aversion to it. This kind of knowledge is called knowledge of disgust. After attaining the knowledge of disgust, that meditator possesses powerful insight. In the earlier stages of insight one only possesses weak insight. There are two degrees of insight, there are namely weak and powerful insight.
After the realisation of knowledge of disgust, the attention that one pays to clothes and personal appearance as well as the desire for food are reduced. One is always discontent, world-weary, and never really happy. One cannot find any delight in the human or celestial realms. One wants to escape immediately from the aggregates of the human and celestial existence, as well as from desire for the two kinds of nutriment. This kind of knowledge, is called knowledge of desire for deliverance (muñcitu-kamyatā-ñāṇa). It means longing for freedom from desire, clinging, and craving for the aggregates and nutriments after death. It is like the desire to cut a cord that ties the putrid carcase of a dog around one’s neck. This is the knowledge associated with the wish for the cessation of clinging to one’s own present aggregates and the two kinds of nutriment. The putrid carcase of a dog is similar to this body. The cord is like one’s clinging to the aggregates and nutriment.
All three of these latter types of knowledge belong to the profound knowledge of suffering. After the attainment of that knowledge, the meditator feels contempt for the body as well as for the external material qualities like colour and sound. He or she is not happy. His or her movements and speech are restrained. Despising the mental aggregates, the faculty of the eye is subdued. As for eye-consciousness, one has no desire to see anything. The same is true of ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, and body-consciousness. The faculty of mind is controlled too. Except for the Noble Qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, he or she does not want to contemplate any mundane objects. There is only the desire and longing for emancipation from sensual existences and the aggregates. To this end one uses the forty methods of meditation such as:–
The material aggregates (rūpakkhande) are painful suffering (dukkhato), a disease (rogato), an arrow (sallato), not good (aghato), and oppressive (abhadhato), according to the Paṭisambhidāmagga this is called knowledge of re-observation (paṭisaṅkhā-ñāṇa). The desire, craving, and clinging to corporeality and food, to mundane sensual objects, and to the six kinds of consciousness including volition and all the mental aggregates are totally eradicated by proper contemplation.
When the independence from sensual existence and suffering due to food is certain, at the realisation fear and misery cease. Mental peace is gained. There is no more anxiety or suffering associated with nutriment. The knowledge that contemplates with perfect equanimity free from anxiety and misery regarding the painful suffering connected with the aggregates and nutrition is knowledge of equanimity about formations (saṅkhārupekkhā-ñāṇa).
Knowledge of adaptation (anuloma-ñāṇa) is preliminary preparation (parikamma), access (upacāra), and adaptation (anuloma), which precede the attainment of path knowledge (magga-ñāṇa).
The four kinds of path knowledge belong to the category of supra-mundane knowledge. Among those four, after the attainment of the first path of Stream-winning (sotāpatti-magga), the craving for sensual existence and food associated with the perception of permanence, the view of permanence, the perception of self, and the wrong-view of self that are a part of that craving, the true cause of suffering, is extirpated once and for all. From that time onwards the meditator has no wrong perceptions or views regarding permanence and self in connection with the aggregates and nutriments. The perception of pleasure remains, but not the pleasant view. All wrong views also cease and the root-cause enabling one to be reborn in the lower realms of existence has been cut off. The wrong actions of the past are lacking in power and will not be repeated in the future. Although that person has to wander in the cycle of rebirth, he or she has no gross defilements, does no wrong actions and is free from rebirth in the lower realms. If reborn as a human being he or she is not reborn among the poor or common classes, but must become either wealthy, a noble person, or a member of the royal family or the ruling class. If reborn in the celestial planes, he or she will not be in the inferior class of divine beings or harbour wrong view.
The sensual desire for the perception of pleasure will still exist. A Stream-winner is no different from ordinary worldling in the matter of enjoying sensual pleasures. The female disciple Visākhā became a Stream-winner at the age of seven. On auspicious occasions, she would put on the Mahalatapasādhana jewelled ornament worth ninety million gold coins. She took pleasure in and kept property, such as jewels, gold, and silver. She bore ten sons and ten daughters, and enjoyed her life to the fullest extent. In this respect she did not differ from other worldlings. Even now she is still enjoying the refined celestial pleasures and luxuries of the Nimmānaratī plane as the Chief Queen of the celestial monarch, Sunimmita.
When personality-view and sceptical doubt (vicikicchā) have been eradicated, the root cause to be born in the lower realms and as a worldling (puthujjana) has been destroyed. Hence, the Noble One (ariya) has no opportunity to be reborn as a miserable being, inferior person or deity. Life after life, knowledge is only going to develop.
QUESTION: At the stages of awareness of fearfulness, knowledge of misery, disgust, and desire for deliverance, are the sensual aggregates, nutriments, and pleasures contemplated with loathing and dread? How can this be if these things are enjoyed to the fullest extent possible by Stream-winners? Do these statements not contradict each other?
ANSWER: If a man who was suffering from a serious disease were to eat beef, pork, chicken or fish, he might go blind, deaf, or may even die. While undergoing medical treatment, he was very afraid of eating those kinds of meat and fish. He was, however eventually cured of through medicine. From that time onwards no harm could come to him from eating meat and fish. He could now eat them if he wished to.
The serious disease is similar to the ego-centric view of personality-view (sakkāya-diṭṭhi), which is the root-cause of rebirth in the lower realms. The delicious dishes of meat and fish are like the aggregates of human beings and deities as well as the human and celestial nutriments, luxuries, and pleasures. The increase of serious sores and diseases that can ruin a persons limbs and organs is akin to the ten cycles of suffering leading to rebirth in Avīci hell. The time after which a cure has been effected is like the time after the eradication of the deep-rooted personality-view and the ten cycles of suffering. Eating meat and fish according to one’s wishes after the disappearance of the disease is like the enjoyment of the human and celestial aggregates and sensual pleasures. Note this simile well.
The path of Once-returning (sakadāgāmi-magga) is the second supramundane knowledge. The Once-returner is able to discard the gross defilements remaining in the Stream-winner. He or she has fewer defilements than the Stream-winner. However, he or she is not free from greed, hatred, and delusion, and still enjoys sensual pleasures such as the aggregates and food.
The path of Non-returning (anāgāmi-magga) is the third supramundane knowledge. At the attainment of this third path knowledge, the craving for material and mental aggregates as well as the two life-factors of internal and external nutriments are eradicated together with the root-cause of the latent tendencies. There is no appearance of the sensual aggregates after the end of the present life due to the cessation of craving for the aggregates and food. The cycle of sensual desire is ended once and for all. There is no more suffering for the nutrient factors of food. Such a being must proceed to the realm of Brahma at the end of the present life. He or she will never again be reborn in the sensual realms.
Hatred and mental pain cease owing to the eradication of that craving. After the attainment of Non-returning one is always free from anger, anxiety, and sorrow in the present life and in future existences. One’s mental condition in the present and subsequent lives, is destined to be very peaceful like an extremely cool lotus lake. The craving for the corporeal (rūpa) and incorporeal (arūpa) and the enjoyment of power, glory, luxuries, the aggregates and existence in the Brahmā realms is still felt. Thus, the craving for the two kinds of nutriment ceases once and for all upon one’s realisation of the path of Non-returning. The acme of dispelling knowledge is achieved. The need for meditation on the nutrient factors of food ends when one attains this path as all of the sensual defilements are vanquished.
The extinction of the suffering concerning the nutrient factors of food is possible at the extirpation of the root-cause of the sensual aggregates and existences. If that root-cause remains, one is sure, even if in the Brahmā Realm of neither-perception-nor-perception (nevasaññānāsaññāyatana), to return again into the ten cycles of suffering. The root-cause of the sensual aggregates and existences will cease only when the lust of the five senses is terminated. That lust produces the sensual aggregates that give rise to the ten cycles of suffering concerning the nutrient factors of food. If one can see that the suffering for the ten nutrient factors of food is indeed, then the sensual aggregates and existences also appear to be dreadful. So is the lust of the five senses. That lust can be abandoned. After abandoning that lust, the root-cause of the sensual aggregates and existences is eradicated and that person is free from the possibility to be reborn as a being in one of the sensual realms. Wanting to elucidate thus, the Buddha declared:–
“Kabaḷīkāre, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte pañcakāmaguṇiko rāgo pariññāto hoti. Pañcakāmaguṇike rāge pariññāte natthi taṃ saṃyojanaṃ yena saṃyojanena saṃyutto ariyasāvako puna imaṃ lokaṃ āgaccheyya.” (Nidanā-Vagga Saṃyutta)³
“Oh, monks (bhikkhave); the four nutrient factors of food (kabaḷīkāre āhāre) — that are to be eaten, drunk, chewed, and tasted — are to be thoroughly known by penetrative knowledge (pariññāte). If the lust (rāgo) for the five strands of sensual pleasures (pañcakāmaguṇiko) — sights, sounds, odours, tastes, and touches — is (hoti) thoroughly known (pariññāto); entangled by sensual pleasures (saṃyutto) by that fetter (yena saṃyojanena) by which one may come by means of conception (āgaccheya) again (puna) to this world (imaṃ lokaṃ); the noble disciple (ariyasāvako) — who has already cut the lust that is attached to the five sensual pleasures — does not have (natthi) that fetter (taṃ saṃyojanaṃ) to be reborn in the sensual planes of desire.”
Concerning the nutrient factors of food there is an allegory about a couple who killed and ate the flesh of their only son while on a perilous journey through a desert. It is used to show how the Non-returner fulfils the function of profound knowledge. In accordance with that allegory, when Non-returning is attained one can behave according to that allegory with accomplished profound knowledge. The mental attitude of the Stream-winners and Once-returners is still affected by their craving for perceptions of pleasure and so does not conform with that allegory. They are not free from the enjoyment of food. It is not necessary to mention the mental attitude of worldlings in this regard. Here is the allegory:–
A husband and wife, carrying just a few provisions and their little son, went on a difficult journey through a desert. In the middle of the journey, their provisions ran out. They could neither go on nor retreat. They were in great difficulty. The father of the child thought, “If we go on this way we will all die soon. We can proceed on our journey only if we kill our only son and use his flesh as food. So only our son has to die. Only then can we reach our destination safe and sound.” Saying so, he consulted his wife. The mother of the child could do nothing but agree. Not wanting to kill their own son with their own hands. They devised a plan whereby he would accidentally die. After his death, they cut his body into pieces and ate the flesh twice a day on the way until they reached their destination.
In this allegory, killing their dear son was unavoidable. So was devising the means of his death, carrying it out, seeing the death, cutting up the corpse into pieces, eating the pieces of flesh twice a day, putting them into the mouth, chewing and swallowing them. All of these acts were carried out with an attitude of disgust. The seeking and consumption of the nutrient factors of food should be carried out in the same way. The people who make efforts for their livelihood should also contemplate and reflect upon this allegory. Obedience, in accordance with this allegory, is possible only after the attainment of the path of Non-returning and the completion of the profound knowledge regarding the nutrient factors of food.
Among the three kinds of profound knowledge, the second type of analytical knowledge is the most essential. Profound knowledge means the attainment of insight is possible only after finding the root-cause. Partial knowledge is not rightly called “pariññā.” Thorough study of the Abhidhamma, contemplation, teaching and writing about impermanence, basing these on logical reasons is the function of knowledge acquired by hearing. They are not the same as analytical knowledge. Nor are they insight knowledge based on seeing the present realities and acquired by thinking and contemplation. If knowledge acquired by hearing is included in profound knowledge, it should be classified only as direct knowledge.
The teachings given by monks are the functions of discourse (desanā) and admonition (anusāsana). Teaching “Form is impermanent, feeling is impermanent, etc.,” in accordance with the texts is the function of discourse. According to the phrase “Form is impermanent,” the urging to instil in the audience profound knowledge of the impermanence of material phenomena is the function of repeated admonition. The function of discourse is achieved even when it is memorized. The function of repeated admonition is implemented at the realisation of profound knowledge. It is to be carried out repeatedly for days with perceptible reasons and realities to be seen in the present to realise “Form is impermanent.” Profound knowledge concerning impermanence is clearly discerned in the present moment if the repeated disappearance of the so-called entity who walks in the course of taking a step is seen. Regarding all the other postures it is to be noted in the same way.
The goal of repeated admonition is achieved when the listener realises them as if seeing them with his or her own eyes. The words of repeated admonition may cover more than a hundred pages even in describing the phrase “Form is impermanent.” That is why the exact words of a discourse are retained in good Treatises. The words of repeated admonition cannot be mentioned there.
In the Visuddhimagga, the chapter on repeated admonition is depicted as the corporeality septad (rūpasattaka) and the mentality septad (nāmasattaka). Although these subjects are difficult, they can be understood with the help of a competent teacher. Nowadays, it is difficult to find a competent and willing teacher who can explain these matters in detail.
End of the section on the meditation on the nutrient factors of food.
The three mental nutriments will now be explained. Of the three, consciousness (viññāṇa) is the most important factor, However, after first explaining the material nutriment, contact (phassa) is then explained (as it is most clear when it strikes the object.) The nutrient of volition is elucidated after contact. Therefore, the nutrient of consciousness (viññāṇāhāra) is not mentioned in the middle, but at the end.
In order of the degree of importance of their functions, the following arrangement can be made:–
Here, taking the accomplishment as the main factor, the nutrient of consciousness w ill be explained first.
Of those three nutrients, consciousness is defined as that which knows the object. Seizing the desirable (iṭṭha) and the undesirable (aniṭṭha) essences of the object is the function of contact. The work of extracting the pleasant and unpleasant essences from the objects and instigating the associated mental states is called volition.
If, for example, there were no such thing as contact, but only consciousness in beings, then they would know only heat without feeling any of the unbearable and painful sufferings that arise due to contact with it. If they had only contact but no faculty of consciousness, then they would not even feel the flames of Avīci hell. They would be as insensate as logs. It they had only consciousness and contact and no volition, then they would be incapable of making any mental, verbal, or physical movements owing to their intolerable contact with the intense heat. Those three kinds of actions arise on account of the function of volition. These are the differences of the nutrients in connection with painful suffering. Thus, the three sorts of nutrients should be properly understood regarding the pleasure that they bring to human beings, deities, and Brahmā.
In this world every sort of pleasure and bliss arises due to contact. The same is true of pain and suffering. If there were no contact in this world, then there would not be any pleasure, bliss, pain, or suffering. That condition will cause the absence of craving, greed, anger, and hatred. That being so then none of the multifarious defilements such as dullness can arise either. This shows the importance of contact.
It is volition that ever motivates consciousness and its concomitants to turn towards various objects. Behold the restless nature of the mind, for example, if confronted with an object of greed. Volition, then motivates the consciousness and its concomitants to be greedy. It drives the mind towards greed. Enjoying the object, volition pushes the mind further towards the object of greed. In the same way the faculty of volition motivates the mind to pursue the objects of hatred and delusion.
Volition in ordinary worldlings is very weak in performing deeds of confidence, wisdom, generosity, morality, and meditation. It moderates, drives, pushes, and urges the mind slowly and weakly in the direction of those good deeds. It needs a strong support provided by reflection on the dangers of rebirth in the lower realms in the endless cycle of rebirth, and in foreseeing the effects of good actions, because the mind takes delight in doing misdeeds. According to its willingness, volition drives, pushes, and urges the mind very quickly to bad destinations. If the destination is not to one’s liking it cannot do so.
The aggregate of mental concomitants (saṅkhārakkhandha) includes fifty mental properties (cetasikā) besides feeling and perception. Consider this simile of volition and the remaining forty-nine mental properties of the fifty that make up the aggregate of mental formations. Suppose there are forty-nine barges and only one tug. Those barges laden with goods and merchandise are sent to different ports by that tug. Onlookers will see which tug is towing which barge down the middle of the river. It will take the barge to such and such a port. Like that simile, sometimes volition pulls greed out of the heart, the seat of consciousness. It drives greed towards the object. Sometimes it moves from the heart to act together with hatred and moves towards the object of hatred. Understand likewise regarding the remaining forty-seven mental properties of the aggregate of mental formations. The function of volition does not come to an end when a sentient being dies. After the death and cessation of the material entity fabricated by the results of past actions, it will drive the concomitants to take a new form of existence. It ceases and its functions stop only at the moment of final liberation (parinibbāna). This is the importance of volition.
There are three men; one looks for match-boxes and match-sticks, another who strikes all of them to produce fire, another one uses them to set every house on fire. Those three men are similar to the three kinds of nutriment. The match-boxes and sticks are like the six sense-objects. The flame in the fire is like an undesirable taste.
The first man collects sugar-cane. The second man squeezes the sugar-cane juice. The sugar-cane is similar to the six sensual objects. The sugar-juice is like a desirable taste.
A sentient being has both materiality and mentality. In other words, he or she has two types of aggregates. The six types of consciousness are the six doors of mentality. The six sensual objects enter the mind through the six doors of consciousness. If it is a desirable object the faculty of contact then extracts the desirable essence from it. It also extracts the undesirable essence from the undesirable object. The six kinds of volition instigate the whole village of mentality (the outcome) to experience the desirable and undesirable essences. No mental property is left behind. All have to come out quickly to enjoy the relevant sense objects. Consciousness and contact also take part in their enjoyment. If the natural states of these phenomena are to be seen objectively there are many examples for doing so.
This is the brief explanation in connection with the direct knowledge of three kinds of the nutrient.
Here, the nutrient of consciousness will be explained.
“Viññāṇe, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte nāmarūpaṃ pariññātaṃ hoti, nāmarūpe pariññāte ariyasāvakassa natthi kiñci uttari karaṇīyanti vadāmī.” ⁴
“Monks! (bhikkhave) if the nutrient of consciousness (viññāṇe āhāre) is fully comprehended (pariññāte) mental and material phenomena (nāma-rūpaṃ pariññātaṃ) are also comprehended. With the comprehension of mental and material phenomena (nāma-rūpe pariññāte) the noble disciple (ariyasāvakassa) has nothing (natthi kiñci) more (uttari) to do (karanīyaṃ) in carrying out the supreme practice; thus (iti) I do declare (vadāmi).”
In the case of the nutrient of consciousness, if the function of knowledge is achieved then there is not any special work to be done by the mental properties of contact, feeling, perception, volition, and so forth or for the four great primary material elements and their derivatives. They are automatically achieved. If mentality and materiality are comprehended dwelling in the supreme practice (brahmacariyavāsa) is implemented. No further effort is needed to augment morality, concentration, and wisdom in the present life. In the cycle of rebirth even the functions of morality, concentration, wisdom practised by recluses and monks are a source of pain and suffering. In the cycle of rebirth, the course of repeated births and deaths, the beginning and end of which cannot be reckoned, those painful tasks have been carried out countless times. However, they were not totally successful in so far as those recluses and monks were reborn in the lower realms and in hell due to their partial achievements. Dwelling in the supreme practice comes to an end if the nutrient of consciousness is fully comprehended and mastered. Then one enjoys complete freedom from the cycle of suffering by dwelling in the supreme practice. It means that one will know no more pain and suffering in trying to perfect morality, concentration, and wisdom together with other ascetic and monastic practices.
In the case of direct knowledge, “One knows the suffering of the nutrient of consciousness (āhāraṃ jānāti); one knows the cause of the nutrient of consciousness (āhāra-samudayaṃ jānāti); one knows the cessation of the nutrient of consciousness (āhāra-nirodhaṃ jānāti); one knows the way leading to the cessation of the nutrient of consciousness (āhāra-nirodha-gāmini-paṭipadaṃ jānāti).” ⁵
This is the meaning that is explained properly and apprehended at the moment of the realisation of direct knowledge.
The cessation of suffering for nutriment is the unconditioned great nibbāna. The definite existence of that great nibbāna must be taken on faith by inferential knowledge (anumāna-buddhi) at the time of attaining direct knowledge. Then exertion in the way leading to the cessation of suffering for nutrient that is worthy to be called analytical knowledge and dispelling knowledge can be achieved. However, if that knowledge is meant in accordance with the path function it has a different meaning.
The nutrient of consciousness is of six kinds: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, and mind-consciousness. Eye-consciousness arises due to the contact of sights with the eye-base. Ear-consciousness arises due to the contact of sounds with the ear-base. Nose-consciousness arises due to the contact of odours with the nose-base. Tongue-consciousness arises due to the contact of flavours with the tongue-base. Body-consciousness arises due to the contact of tangible objects with the body-base. Mind consciousness arises due to the contact of ideas — good ones such as confidence, morality, knowledge, and generosity, or bad ones such as greed, hatred, and delusion — with the mind.
It is a wrong view to equate the sights that come into eye-consciousness during the act of seeing with the notion “I see.” It must be understood that the seeing and the thing seen are separate and distinct. The same is to be understood on hearing sounds with the ears, smelling odours with the nose, tasting flavours with the tongue, and touching tangible objects such as hot, cold, soft, or hard. The idea of “I see, I know” is personality-view (sakkāya-diṭṭhi). Those thoughts and apprehensions must be comprehended by knowledge as being the function of the element of thought — it is the natural function of thought.
Here is a simile to aid comprehension. The body is like a putrid sore. The six types of consciousness are similar to the microbes that have infected the sore. Consciousness is purely mental and it has no substance. It is distinct from matter such as the eye-base. However, this must be pondered to realise it with knowledge.
The material groups such as the eyes and ears must be discriminated by conjecture as if they are crystal-clear bubbles. The six categories of consciousness must be differentiated hypothetically as being images reflected in those bubbles. After repeated contemplation, the true nature of mind will be realised only when the knowledge becomes subtly perceptive. However, it does not matter even if it appears as shadows, bubbles, or dewdrops. It is accomplished if seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and thinking are realised as they truly are. If the conjectural object of contemplation is another object and the discernment is not free from the personality-view of “I see” it will not be the proper discriminating knowledge (dhammavavatthāna-ñāṇa). It is achieved if it is caught, apprehended, and overwhelmed by the knowledge after freedom from the personality-view of “I see, I know” is gained.
That is why the Buddha instructed meditators to contemplate the aggregate of matter as being like foam, the feeling aggregate to be like bubbles, and the perception aggregate as being like a mirage when compared with other materials. By those similes the Buddha showed the absence of essence, but not any similarity of forms. If the form is taken as the main objective then mental properties like contact and volition must be contemplated as being like a trunk of a plantain tree as the aggregate of mental concomitants is mentioned as being like that. This is not really so, because contact is a mental property that has no shape. This is obvious to the majority of people. The purpose of the similes is to indicate the characteristic of appearing and disappearing very rapidly.
Therefore, the Mahāniddesa Pāḷi text and the Visuddhimagga Commentary state: “Vijjuppādova ākāse, uppajjanti vayanti ca.” It means to perceive that the swiftness of the appearance and disappearance of material and mental phenomena is like that of seeing a flash of lightning in the sky.
The contemplation of impermanence, suffering, and not-self eliminates the wrong-view of permanence, pleasure, and a self, being, person, or soul. If they are discerned to be as swift as a flash of lightning then their unreliability, impermanence, suffering, and emptiness as well as the absence of a being, person, and soul becomes apparent. If that is realised then the function of comprehension by insight (vipassanā-pariññā-kicca) is achieved. That is why the allegory of lightning is used. Material and mental phenomena can arise and vanish billions of times within a flash of lightning. Those kinds of momentary appearances and disappearances cannot be discriminated by the ordinary knowledge of beings. There will not be a spark of insight knowledge even if an indiscernible object were to be contemplated for a thousand years. There will only be the suffering of delusion (sammoha-dukkha). Why? The Pāḷi texts mention that the mental qualities occur so swiftly that they can arise and pass away more than a billion times within a flash of lightning or the snapping of the fingers. Even the blink of an eye is a very rapid movement for ordinary people to perceive. It is not possible to contemplate mental qualities arising a billion times within a blink the eye according to the texts. Mental phenomena appear and disappear far too quickly according to the above mentioned facts. The swiftness of its arising and vanishing must be discerned. This is an important fact that has to be accepted on faith as being true.
The Abhidhamma is taught by those having attained Omniscience (sabbaññuta-ñāṇa) and so we should not try to follow it when contemplating to realise the characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and not-self regarding the appearances and disappearances occurring, for example, within a thought-process at the eye-door. It would only be a yearning to achieve an impossible task. Take note that such an achievement is very far from what can be discerned by insight knowledge.
End of the explanation of the nature of direct knowledge.
The suffering connected with the nutrient of consciousness belongs to the ten cycles of suffering for the nutrient factors of food, the function of which is solely concerned with livelihood. It is to carry out energetically the functions of the four postures. Giving way to greed, some people try to be wealthy, famous, and influential. Enjoying delightful forms, sounds, odours, tastes, and contacts, they indulge in revelry. However, others perform noble deeds such as charity for their welfare in future existences. Some try to achieve worldly wealth and success. Taken as a whole these are called foolish concerns (bālussukka) derived from the nutrient of consciousness in which it must be understood that the nutrients of contact and volition are included.
This is the first cycle of suffering.
Foolish concerns (bālussukka) can be explained by the following grammatical definition:–
“Bālānam ussukko bālussukko.”
Ussukko: It is the striving; bālānam: of those who have not yet realised the Four Truths; iti: thus, bālussukka: it is called foolish concern.
In seeking and enjoying sense objects, wealth, and luxuries in this way, there are many internal and external dangers.
This is the second cycle of suffering derived from the nutrient of consciousness.
The third cycle of suffering originating from the nutrient of consciousness is the increase of the multifarious defilements that are included in the first and second cycles.
The fourth cycle of suffering is the multiplication of the ten wrong actions, such as the killing of sentient beings, that belong to those previous cycles.
The fifth cycle of suffering is that which is linked to those cycles.
The cycle of defilements is fully active and uninterrupted without an interval of even an hour in the six celestial planes. That cycle exists in connection with the lower realms of existence. In the realm of Brahmā, there are the fires of lust for the corporeal and incorporeal. Conceit, powerful personality-view, eternity-view and annihilation-view born from the nutrient of consciousness. They are included in the cycle of the defilements relating to the cycle of suffering in the lower realms.
This is a brief explanation of first truth of suffering, direct knowledge according to: “One knows the suffering of the nutrient of consciousness.”
Analytical knowledge consists in the comprehension or profound knowledge of impermanence, suffering, and not-self. In the case of the profound knowledge of impermanence, body-consciousness spreads throughout the body. It is accompanied by the appearance of feelings of pleasure and pain. This will be examined first.
Of the two kinds of body-consciousness, the more apparent one is that accompanied by pain. Therefore, the body-consciousness accompanied by pain will be examined first. If any part of the body such as the back is pierced by a sharp-pointed object then a severe painful feeling will be felt until the wound is cured, then that painful feeling disappears. Although feeling is taken as the main factor, all the four mental aggregates arise and disappear simultaneously, as do the three nutrients.
When the four mental aggregates arise in one place they are absent in the other parts of the body where there is only the aggregate of matter naturally. Mental aggregates arise in the part of the body when the aggregate of matter is present in the whole body. As their appearance and disappearance are so rapid they are thought to co-exist with the eyes, ears, and heart. At the moment of experiencing painful suffering the eyes are seeing and the ears are hearing sounds such as a voice. The heart, the seat of consciousness, is also aware of the painful feeling at the same time. The rapidity of the change, the arising and vanishing, is imperceptible and unknowable according to the saying: “There are a billion appearances and disappearances within the blink of an eye.” Analysing the nature of the four mental aggregates at the injured part of the body is as follows:–
Knowing the injury is consciousness; pain is feeling; noting the touch is the aggregate of perception. Thus they occur and can appear again in the memory even after the pain has disappeared. The presence of contact is clear when the feeling occurs. Continuous pain is the work of volition. Contact and volition are included in the aggregate of mental formations. So too are one-pointedness, psychic-life, and attention. All are the four mental aggregates. The group of material qualities arising that hurt a part of the body are the aggregate of matter. In all there are five aggregates. Before receiving the injury there is only the aggregate of matter at that part. The aggregate of feeling is not evident when one is hurt in that way. Therefore, only the name “painful feeling” is used. The aggregate of consciousness is apparent in the mere knowing of the painful touch.
Here, in contemplating the pain to be perceived it should be thought to be like tiny bubbles foaming up because of the presence of rain drops according to the discourse, “vedanā bubbuḷūpamā,” which takes feeling as the main factor.⁶ The discernment by natural appearance is better. It is not proper unless there is a distinct image of it as it will not otherwise be free from the personality-view, which says “I feel pain.”
Insight contemplation is the task of the discernment of knowledge (ñāṇa-dassana) and that which is to be realised by oneself (sandiṭṭhika). Therefore, the image must appear like the image seen by the eyes if eye-consciousness is contemplated. In contemplation, there must be reflection whether the eye-consciousness with the thought of “I see” disappears or not. If it is still existing it should be known that the eye-consciousness is not properly apprehended. If this is so, then the characteristics will be the same. If its nature is grasped its arising and vanishing can also be discerned well by contemplation. Like the consciousness of “I see,” “I hear,” and so on, their very nature is strongly attached to craving, conceit, and wrong-view. Their true nature should be realised by insight knowledge. The unclear states do not matter much. In suffering the pain of an injury, feeling is distinct and attached to the thought of “I am hurt.” Consciousness is not as prominent and it is not attached to the thought of “I know.” When contemplating feeling the meditator should catch hold of the moment of consciousness that recognizes feeling. It does not matter even if feeling is contemplated as consciousness. Among the associated mental states that arise and vanish simultaneously, it is sufficient if the most distinct feeling is perceived.
This is the method of perceiving the natural state.
Here is the way of comprehending arising and passing away, when the four mental aggregates called pain were arising continuously at the part of the body. Pain did not exist elsewhere before the infliction of the injury. It suddenly appeared because of that injury. The absence of pain is also that of the four mental aggregates. They do not move to any other place. Many people are deluded by their appearance and disappearance and those people think that consciousness always exists in the body. It arises at the advent of the injury. At the absence of injury, it occurs in other parts. The attachment to permanence and self is strong. Thus, those meditators should be assured that the mental aggregates are only guests that appear at the injured part of the body and then cease at the same place. If that fact is perceived the others will be perceived, but this should not be regarded as a simple task. Of course, it is easier for the intelligent than for the dull. Even if the feeling of pain is easily perceived that of pleasure may be more difficult to discern. Even if the feeling of pleasure is perceived easily, it is much more difficult to realise eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, and so on when they are accompanied by a feeling of indifference.
That is why it is said in the Cūḷavedalla Sutta:–⁷
“Adukkhamasukhā vedanā ñāṇasukhā aññāṇadukkhā”ti.
“Indifferent feeling is pleasant when it is known, and painful if it remains unknown.”
According to the Commentaries, indifferent feeling is difficult to contemplate and discern. By the method of “tracing the footprints of a deer” (migapadavalañjana) the presence of a neutral feeling between pleasure and pain can be known only by means of conjecture. Among the five types of consciousness, eye-consciousness is accompanied by a subtle feeling of indifference, which is very difficult to perceive. It has many and varied functions and arises continuously. The attachment to the personality-view of “I see” is very strong and firmly rooted. It is as difficult to dissociate personality-view from eye-consciousness, even through knowledge, as it is to save the prey trapped in the mouth of a tiger or lion. Visualizing the appearance and disappearance of the image reflected in a tiny bubble should be easy. In the same way, the arising and vanishing of eye-consciousness must be explained by those of the material qualities of the sense-organs. The comparison will be easy when the occurrence and cessation of the material qualities of the sense-organs are discerned well. The awareness of “I see” happens after the occurrence of the thought-processes in the eye-door and the mind-door. Eye-consciousness and the thought-processes of the object are connected as being a single entity by the idea of “I see.”
The task of insight is to discard that attachment. Therefore, many thousands of thought-processes may be contemplated making a single consciousness of “I see.” However, it is of no matter if the attachment of “I see” ceases and disappears. It is the same for other methods of contemplation. The Abhidhamma scholar skilled in the traditional methods of classifying the thought-processes by hearing repeated lectures on genesis (uppāda), stasis (ṭhiti), and dissolution (bhaṅga) of the past subconsciousness (atītabhavaṅga), arresting subconsciousness (bhavaṅgupaccheda), and the five sense-door adverting consciousness (pañcadvārāvajjana), which by logical reasoning sees them according to their true nature. However, this discernment is not insight knowledge, but is far removed from it. Nevertheless, some people believe and teach that proper insight meditation can be carried out only with a thorough knowledge of those momentary processes of nature. Of course, they are quite ignorant of the important and proper facts and they speak in accordance with their own opinion only.
Here is an allegory. The Abhidhamma scholar is like a great pharmacist of Rangoon or Mandalay. He has on display all sorts of costly drugs in his shop. He can sell any sort of medicine for any amount. However, he has no knowledge of medical practice. He has more than a hundred kinds of drugs for a single disease that he himself may be suffering from, but he cannot be cured of that disease as he lacks proper medical knowledge. The meditator who has profound knowledge of contact, feeling, or volition is like the physician who can cure hundreds of patients with a powerful medicinal root.
Consider the story of Poṭṭhila Mahāthera mentioned in the Dhammapada Commentary. He was learned in the Tipiṭaka, and had memorised the teachings of the six former Buddhas — Vipassī, Sikhī, Vessabhū, Kakusandha, Koṇāgamana, and Kassapa. At the time of Buddha Gotama, he had learnt by heart all the Vinaya, Suttanta, and Abhidhamma, and was famous as a Tipiṭakadhāra and a well-known monk at the Jetavana monastery. When he wanted to meditate he approached teachers with full respect, but none would accept him as a disciple out of deference. He finally received the method of contemplation from a young novice who had attained Arahantship. Formerly he was called Tuccha Poṭṭhila, “Empty-headed Poṭṭhila,” by the Buddha.
The Abhidhamma scholar who lacks insight knowledge is akin to the pharmacist who has a large amount of expensive yellow orpiment and realgar. The meditator who has profound knowledge of the nutrient of contact and the other nutrients is similar to a fakir who can convert yellow orpiment into gold or silver. However, thanks to the work of Abhidhamma scholars, the Abhidhamma Piṭaka still exists now. The work of those scholars has been very helpful in this dispensation.
This is an admonition for the learned to be heedful and wise in connection with their studies of the Abhidhamma.
In the said case of injury, the discernment of the process of the arising and ceasing, and regeneration of the four mental aggregates is very beneficial. It can help the meditator to be free from the perception that the mental qualities are continuous from the moment of conception. Seeing vividly and objectively the end of genesis in the present moment can terminate the perception that accepts the continuity of the mental qualities from the past to the present moment. There are advantages in seeing the present dissolution clearly. As it makes the perception of permanence impossible. The four mental aggregates are impermanent and they cease. The moment their dissolution is discerned this is understood, and it is concluded that they cannot last even for the blink of an eye. Therefore, that perception of continuity disappears.
The fact that the sensation of pain cannot last even for the blink of an eye, but is in a state of flux will be clearly discerned if the feeling is closely examined. Before the cessation of the pain, in the injured part of the body there will be millions of its appearances and disappearances that are to be discerned and realised according to one’s own ability. One will be able to decide definitely that they cannot last even for a blink of an eye.
When, in the case of the feeling of pain, one realises the end of its arising and its dissolution at each impact of the object, one understands that the mental aggregates like consciousness and volition are, indeed, new-comers that arise suddenly at the same place and at the same time. At the disappearance of the pain, they all cease suddenly at the same place and at the same time. One can realise, in fact, how part by part they die and vanish as they are impermanent. From now on at the moment of contact with the object they will appear again and again in succession. Every appearance will end in dissolution at the same place. Both the whole and the parts will be visualized by knowledge in the coming existences if they have been perceived in that way during the present life. One will also be able to see the innumerable beings and the countless universes in the same manner.
This is the explanation according to the repeated admonition to establish clearly the profound knowledge of impermanence realised when the process of body-consciousness accompanied by pain is seen.
If the meditator has not comprehended the body-consciousness accompanied by pain in one part of the body he should focus his attention on another part of the body. Each of the parts focused on should not be too close to the others. Take the example of pain occurring in the sole of the right foot. An examination should be carried out to discern the end of its arising and its dissolution in accordance with the nature of the above-mentioned mental impression.Then, the examination of the pain should proceed to include the left sole, the right palm, the left palm and so on. Other painful feelings should be studied and exposed, for example, toothache and headache, the appearance and disappearance of heat in the heart, the lungs, and so forth.
One should also trace the arising and vanishing of itching, numbness, aching, and pain at various parts of the limbs. The more the teacher explains the method of examining the pains occurring all over the body, the more the listener will comprehend their true nature by knowledge. After the investigation of body-consciousness accompanied by pain at every part of the body, the remaining five types of consciousness totalling six in all as well as the mental properties will be experienced in the same way. The wrong view of “I see, I hear, I know, I am hurt, etc.,” will be discarded forever.
End of the explanation of knowledge of impermanence.
The pleasurable feeling should be traced after the painful feeling. Pleasure or bliss (sukha) consists of the absence of pain and the feeling of pleasure. The condition of the body and mind being free from painful feeling is called the absence of pain (nidukkhasukha). It is pleasure because of the absence of painful feeling. Pleasurable feeling is not very distinct. The function of consciousness, merely knowing the touch, is conspicuous. The pleasurable feeling that is noteworthy will be mentioned first. Bathing in very cold water when it is very hot, fanning oneself, going out for air, warming oneself by a fire when it is very cold, basking in the sunshine, and being massaged with soft hands should be explained according to one’s capability.
Here are the methods of exposition. An area about the size of the palm of the hand that has been burned should be used in the example of pouring cold water over it. The continuous successive changes of heat, the disappearance of the painful feeling of intense heat and appearance of the pleasurable cool feeling on that spot should be mentioned. After the water evaporates that had been poured on the hand now and then, the pleasurable feeling steadily increases in succession. This kind of episodic description must be carried out. The elements of feeling must be examined right there. The ends of its successive genesis and continuous dissolution must be discerned objectively in the present moment. The modes of repeated admonition should be followed in conformity with the former chapter.
Contemplating on one part of the body and extending this to include the whole body for the duration of the cycle of rebirth and applying the same contemplation to all other beings should be performed in compliance with the aforementioned methods. After the realisation of the conspicuous pleasurable feeling, the subtle touches felt when the body comes into contact with soft clothes, carpets, leaves, and other objects will also give rise to the sudden appearance of pleasurable feelings and will be discerned. Contemplation of each separate spot in conformity with one’s capability of insight can lead to clear visualization.
End of the explanation of knowledge of arising and passing away.
Tongue-consciousness that is accompanied by indifference and the function of feeling are not distinct. The examination must be carried out by applying cognition as well as the process of thought that can decide whether they are desirable or undesirable tastes such as sweet, delicious, bitter, or pungent when they occur in the later types of consciousness. The function of consciousness is very clear. Knowing the sweetness or bitterness of a taste is distinct. Its total cessation is also clear. The determination of desirability and undesirability becomes prominent at the advent of the later series of types of consciousness. It is correct to say that all feelings are accompanied and enjoyed by tongue-consciousness. It is important to clearly perceive the ends of the appearance and disappearance of those mental aggregates. The repeated admonitory explanation should be understood according to the methods mentioned in the two types of body-consciousness (i.e. that accompanied by pain and that by pleasure). The arising and passing away of such should be contemplated when sugar, molasses, lime-juice, and other food, drinks, and flavours are placed on the tongue.
End of the explanation of tongue-consciousness.
The repeated appearance and disappearance of good and bad odours concerning the two kinds of nose-consciousness (pleasant or unpleasant) should be discerned clearly. Ear-consciousness should also be contemplated in the same way. Ear-consciousness is very subtle and personality-view is very firm there. It is very difficult to abandon the glaring misconceptions such as “I hear.” In any case that wrong-view will be eliminated by discerning the ends of their appearances and disappearances including the element of consciousness. The thoughts “I feel well, I feel hurt, I am hot, I feel heat, I am itching, I feel pain, I am numb, I feel nothing,” and so on concerning the two kinds of body-consciousness are numerous, but easily eradicated as they have the conspicuous function of feeling. Regarding tongue-consciousness, the hell-fires of wrong-view such as “I am tasting a sweet taste, a sour taste, it tastes good and it tastes bad,” as well as “I smell a bad odour and I smell a fragrant odour,” are easy to put out. The hell-fire of “I hear” becomes difficult to be extinguished at the stage of ear-consciousness. The burning inferno of “I see it, I look at it or glance at,”concerned with eye-consciousness burn fiercely. Full realisation depends on how competent one’s teacher is in giving repeated admonitions. Moreover, insight knowledge will be able to extinguish the flames (of wrong-view) if systematic visualization is practised.
Those Abhidhamma scholars whose hypothetical works are based on logical reasons of the degree of Omniscience are not concerned with insight knowledge. This fact has already been mentioned. The attachment on the notion of “I see” has been said to be like hell-fire. If personality-view is dispelled, then the doors to woeful existences are closed. The seed and root of all miseries are destroyed. The sinews and nerves of miserable lives are severed. When personality-view is no longer held then the countless wrong actions done in the past vanish at once, and the possibility of doing immoral actions in the future disappears totally as well. The door to miserable existences is closed forever due to the disappearance of personality-view. This shows that the personality-view is the main cause of all wrong actions in this world. The four lower realms arise as a result of personality-view. So do the hell-fires. That is why personality-view professing an egocentric “I” is likened to the fires of hell.
The attachment in seeing consists of craving, conceit, and wrong-view. The attachment of “I see” is the special factor of conceit. It is also concerned with craving and wrong-view. The self-centred sense of “I” is thought to be only one and constant throughout one’s life. Eye-consciousness, or the function of seeing, is taken as “I see.” That eye-consciousness is also thought to be only one for the whole of one’s life.
The function of “I see” is taken to be good. That attachment is the special work of craving. Seeing is clung to and thought to be “my self.” That is the special factor of wrong-view. These have already been well explained in the foregoing analysis of a being, person, self, or soul, and realities.
End of the description of the five types of consciousness.
The heart-base (hadaya-vatthu) or the seat of mind-consciousness is like the burning building of mind-consciousness. It is also very great. A skilful fire-officer is needed to extinguish the flames.
Here are the methods to extinguish them. Mind-consciousness is believed to exist as a continuous, single entity in the heart by night and by day. The hell-fires of “I know, I think, I ponder, and I imagine,” are burning continuously. The native place of the collection of mind-consciousness is the heart-base in which there is about a handful and half of blood. The blood in the heart is always pumping and flowing like the current of water in a spring because of the digestive heat (pācaka-tejo) underneath and the life-guarding heat (usamā-tejo) that exists throughout the body. The material element of the seat of mind-consciousness (hadaya-vatthu), is also dependent on that blood. All mental types of consciousness arise in succession in the materiality of the heart-base. “It is glittering.”
The Buddha taught: “Pabhassaramidam bhikkhave cittaṃ,” and “Pandaraṃ cittaṃ.”
Monks (bhikkhave)! This mind-consciousness (idaṃ cittaṃ) is luminous (pabhassaraṃ). Consciousness (cittaṃ), is translucent (paṇḍaraṃ).
This is not something that can be seen by the eyes, but only discerned by insight knowledge. It is no use even if the meditator surmises this by knowledge gained through visualization. According to the words “Vijjuppādova ākāse,” it is significant to perceive clearly by knowledge the ends of the appearances and disappearances of phenomena as they are extremely rapid like flashes of lightning.
The heavy and slow movement of the heart that is felt due to the circulation of the blood at its starting-point should be explained. That kind of movement sometimes occurs at the middle, sometimes near the starting-point, and sometimes at the end. Sometimes it arises on the right side, sometimes on the left. The places where it is felt to occur are many and varied. Naturally, it vanishes at the place of its arising. If other spots, having the same size as the hollow of the heart such as the surface of the eye are pierced once at each spot by a sharp needle, then the four mental aggregates called pain will come about with each prick of the needle. They are seen clearly as they dissolve too at each spot of their occurrence. Every arising at each spot and every passing away at the same place should be realised objectively.
For example, say in a small bottle there is about a half a handful of crystal clear red liquid that can dissolve anything totally and quickly. Say some tiny white germs born from moisture appear every moment and they disappear quickly at a certain point in that liquid, but they are destroyed by that liquid within a blink of an eye. The discernment must be the same as this example.
The heart’s blood seems to be moving everywhere owing to the swift flux of consciousness. The momentary collection of thoughts such as “I know, I think” and that of the blood that seemed to be moving ought to be perceived at the same time. It is not enough if only the momentary appearance and disappearance of the apparent movements of heart’s blood are realised, but not those of thought and consciousness. The hell-fires of wrong-view such as “I think and I know” should not be excluded from one’s contemplation and visualization. The knowledge that contemplates and visualizes ought to be discerned occasionally.
“Pheṇūpamaṃ kāyamimaṃ viditvā, marīcidhammaṃ abhisambudhāno.
Chetvāna mārassa papupphakāni, adassanaṃ maccurājassa gacche.⁸ (Dhp v 46)
“Knowing that this body is like bubbles, and fully understanding its illusory nature, one should destroy the flower-shafts of Māra, and pass beyond the sight of the king of death.”
These Pāḷi words uttered by the Buddha must be noted as an example of that which no has essence, shape, or form.
A mirage is an illusion. It appears as a sheet of water in a dried up lake when seen from a distance. This is the result of intense heat in summer. Many thirsty deer roaming in search of water in summer on seeing the mirage, think it is water, they run towards the empty lake, but the optical illusion vanishes as soon as they come near the bank and they move to the middle of the lake. When they reach the middle of the lake the mirage again disappears and reappears on the opposite bank. However, it is no longer there when they reach it. It is seen again in the middle of the lake and they run back. However, they cannot find it there either. It seems to be near the bank in front of them. They again run towards it, but it disappears and reappears again in the middle of the lake. They run on and on until they die of exhaustion and thirst.
Here, the mirage is merely clouds of vapour that rise up from the bottom of the lake bed. The rays of the sun fall on the vapour and the combination of them produces what is called a mirage. It cannot be seen at close range. It must be seen from a distance when the rays of the sun permeate it at a certain angle otherwise it does not appear. The example means that the continual appearances of the mental aggregates must be seen to be like the rays of the mirage. It is important to analyse their arising and vanishing. The profound knowledge of impermanence is able to apprehend their appearance and disappearance.
In conformity with the aforesaid explanation, after the visualization of the true nature of the six types of consciousness as well as their arising and cessation, their interdependence should also be contemplated. After the realisation of impermanence, the profound knowledge of not-self will be easily realised in connection with the Law of Dependent Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda).
“Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhu-viññāṇaṃ.”
“Eye-consciousness arises newly and repeatedly depending on the eye and the visible object.”
The dependent origination of the eye relating to this Pāḷi passage will be explained in the chapter on the aggregate of matter.
Visible object (rūpa) is a term from the Abhidhamma. It is clear only when the eightfold material group on which the visible object, colour, depends is expounded inclusively.
The visible object of a man, the visible object of an ox, the visible object of a log, the visible object of a post, are terms used in the Abhidhamma.
“I see a man,” “I see an ox,” “I see a log,” I see a post” are substantive descriptions (savatthuka kathā). They are like saying that the foods that are drunk and eaten are called the nutrient factors of food.
In the Pāḷi texts of the Abhidhamma there are both substantive descriptions and ultimate descriptions (paramattha-kathā). Therein, chewable and edible foods are called the nutrient factors of food. They are words used for tangible things. Even in the Dhammasaṅgaṇī, the first book of the Abhidhamma, there are words such as cooked rice (odano), junket (kummāso), flour (sattu), fish (maccho), and meat (maṃsaṃ). Edible cooked rice contains a group of eight material qualities. Among those eight, there is nutriment (ojā), specifically, that material quality is called the nutrient factor when it is used according to the words defining absolute reality.
Here, the substantive description will be given to differentiate one from the other and to make both clearer. The statement, “eye-consciousness newly arises depending on various visible objects,” indicates that the process of seeing goes on from the time one gets up in the morning until the time one goes to bed at night. There is a process in what is seen first and what is seen second and so on. However, so many things are seen that it is difficult to express that process. A man is seen first, and a log is seen second. In seeing the man, there is also a process. For example, the back is seen first, then the head, and so on. These are referred to as visible objects. On seeing each object, a fresh eye-consciousness arises for each object seen. Furthermore, as soon as the eye turns towards the log there is the reflection of the latter on the retina. According to the nature of reality, the reflection of the log occurs on the retina due to the impetus of the image’s impact, which is like that of a thunderbolt. That is why the log is reflected on the retina. As a result of the impact of the log’s image on the retina that mirrors the log, eye-consciousness arises there. When a piece of flint is struck against steel, sparks appear. It is similar to this example. With every blink of an eye the image of the log vanishes. Each disappearance of the log’s image means the cessation of eye-consciousness. There is no need to elaborate on what happens when one turns in another direction. It must be noted that a new image and a new eye-consciousness arise at every moment.
It is the same when seeing the post after seeing the log. It is the same when seeing something else after seeing the post. It should be understood that a thing causes its own eye-consciousness to arise anew on each occasion, of seeing it. From the statement: “Eye-consciousness arises depending on various visible objects,” the fact of dependence becomes clear as that consciousness can appear only due to the impact the visible object’s image.
The contacts of the material things like the log and the post are the causes of the arising of eye-consciousness. In seeing the log, it is the eye-consciousness made by the log. The log is seen by the eye-consciousness activated and created by the log. The post is seen by the eye-consciousness activated by the post. In this way, all kinds of eye-consciousness should be understood.
Here is an allegory. There was a woman who lived for one-hundred-thousand-years. Each year she married a new husband. She gave birth to fifty thousand sons over a period of fifty thousand years. Each man fathered only one son. The sons could therefore not be differentiated by naming the mother, but only by naming the father. The retina is like the mother. Their visible objects are like the fifty thousand fathers. Newly born types of eye-consciousness are like the fifty thousand sons.
A person sees things like the log and the post serially until going to bed. One can say that the log is seen by the eye-consciousness that is the offspring of the log. The post is seen by the eye-consciousness that is the offspring of the post and so on.
Here is another example. There are a thousand trees, measuring the height of a man, standing on both the left and right sides of a road. A man picks up a crystal ball and runs along the road while carrying it. When he reaches each tree the crystal ball reflects the image of each of them. The crystal ball is like the sensitive surface of the eye. The trees resemble the visible objects. The images of the trees are akin to those sorts of eye-consciousness. Their appearances and disappearances are the same.
Sounds and ear-consciousness, odours and nose-consciousness, flavours of foods that are taken into the mouth and tongue-consciousness, and the various tangible objects that touch the body internally or externally and body-consciousness, are to be understood in the same way.
Mind-consciousness has many and varied ideational objects. Good and bad kinds of consciousness, neutral types of consciousness, their associated mental properties: greed, hatred, delusion; confidence, mindfulness; contact, feeling, perception, volition, one-pointedness, psychic-life, attention; initial application, sustained application, decision, effort or energy, zest, will; the ten wrong actions, the ten right actions; the element of cohesion, eye, ear, nose tongue, body, heart-base, vital principle, nutriment; birth, aging, and death are all called ideational objects. The five kinds of objects including the visible objects and audible objects are also concerned with mind-consciousness that apprehends all six types of sense objects. From the time of birth, all the six types of objects arising in the past, present, and future without any break are the objects of mind-consciousness. They were apprehended from the moment of birth up to the present moment. There are also the objects that one expects to encounter in future existences. Apprehension and comprehension of the six sorts of objects gained by means of study and from other persons belong to the objects of mind-consciousness. The continuous thought-processes of mind-consciousness occurring during the period of sound sleep carry out the function of life-continuum (bhavaṅga). At that time, they have for their object either the past action itself (kamma), or a sign of a past action (kamma-nimitta), or a sign of the volitional tendencies that are determined by the force of that past action to be born in the next existence (gati-nimitta). From the moment of waking up until the time of falling asleep, the aforesaid objects are apprehended one after another without any break according to circumstances by mind-consciousness arising at the heart-base. In this process of mind-consciousness, one of the aforementioned objects strikes and instigates the mind-consciousness to arise. Thus, that consciousness arises taking the instigating object as the thought or comprehension in the heart. The surrounding circumstances of contact and impact are continual. The life continuum consciousness is always struck by one of the objects. Because of every instigation each mind-consciousness appears and then passes away successively in serial order. Their appearance and disappearance also occur without any break.
People think that seeing is one continuous process, but in fact, when consciousness, mental properties, and mental aggregates appear in the eye they do not exist in any other part of the body. When they appear in the ear they are only there. When they arise in the nose, on the tongue, or at any other part of the body they exist only at the point where they arose. When they are in heart-base they are not in any other place. Their appearances and disappearances are very swift and they occur billions of times within a blink of an eye. However, they seem to be appearing all over the body at the same time. When thinking: “What I see with my own eyes,” in the process of eye-consciousness, numerous instances of mind-consciousness from the heart-base can intervene successively. That is why it is believed that during a moment of seeing a sound is also heard. The rest can be understood in the same way.
The types of consciousness involving physical movements cannot occur simultaneously with those involving verbal actions and vice versa. However, the shift is so swift that one can speak while one is walking, and while one is talking the limbs can move, visible objects can be seen, and sounds can be heard. These interventions by other objects occur in a series, but they seem to be simultaneous. They make billions of thought-processes seem as one. The insight meditator must contemplate the appearance and disappearance of phenomena. It is important to perceive this arising and vanishing by insight knowledge. The total extinguishing of the six hell-fires of wrong-view such as “I see,” “I hear,” “I smell,” “I taste,” “I touch,” and “I think” as well as the hell-fires of “I speak,” “I talk,” “I move,” “I go,” “I come,” and so on is the important factor. If the appearance and disappearance of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind-consciousness are perceived then the contemplation is complete.
Here ends the explanation of comprehension of impermanence concerning the six types of consciousness.
Here, the profound knowledge of suffering will be explained. The fifteen types of suffering mentioned in the section on direct knowledge are the characteristics of suffering concerning the six sorts of consciousness. Of course, they are terrible. They are real suffering according to the saying “Suffering is fearful (dukkhaṃ bhayatthena).”
In accordance with the saying “Whatever is impermanent, that is suffering (yadaniccaṃ taṃ dukkhaṃ),” and “The perception of suffering in impermanence (anicce dukkhasaññā),” the suffering of impermanence will be explained with examples.
Fruits like palmyra-nuts and coconuts fall to the ground and are scattered when their stalks are broken. Similarly, worldlings cannot live in the human realm forever. They have to die when the ‘stalk,’ or the controlling faculty of the vital principle, is severed. After death, they cannot go to whichever plane of existence they like. It is natural to regard this dispersal with dread. It is called the danger of the cycle of rebirth. Most human beings are liable to fall, after death, into the four lower realms on account of this diffusive danger of the cycle of rebirth. It is very difficult to be reborn again in the human or celestial realms after death. There may be only one who succeeds among a thousand or even a million beings. This danger comes about because of the impermanent nature of consciousness. That danger shadows a being as long as one is attached to the body and consciousness as being one’s own and sees them as a source of pleasure. It is dreadful because it is impermanent. Therefore, this kind of knowledge is really suffering because of dread or danger (bhayatthena dukkhaṃ). The celestial and Brahmā existences are also to be understood in the same way.
Here, how suffering is multiplied by impermanence will be illustrated with examples. Consciousness resembles a murderer. Impermanence is like a sharp sword. A living-being is like a criminal. The murderer, consciousness, hacks the criminal with the sword of impermanence repeatedly and relentlessly from the moment of conception. If the criminal does not receive treatment then he is sure to die of his wounds. However, as each cut is treated immediately he can go on living because he is instantly healed. The treatments themselves constantly torment him severely. The need for a livelihood and seeking the nutrient factors of food are like the treatments in the realm of desire. Seeking a livelihood and edible food are really a great source of suffering that originates in the impermanence of the consciousness of all beings living in water, on land, and in the air.
After the realisation of the above-mentioned truth of impermanence, the suffering characteristic of it can also be discerned. Consciousness cannot be perceived as being eternal, dreadful suffering due to the support of the perception of permanence and the lack of visualization of impermanence.
In other words, the executioner has subordinates and evil influences to kill a sentient being by a single stroke. However, a being is not killed by these repeated blows as he has enough resistance, remedies, and cures. On the other hand, there are evil spirits, witches, and ghosts together with their servants that cause sentient being to be afflicted by torments, wailing, laughing, madness, disgrace, and ruin from every direction.
Here, consciousness is the murderer. The numerous diseases are the evil influences of witchcraft. The dangers of fire, water, robbers, snakes, scorpions, elephants, tigers and so forth are like sorcerers and conspirators. Witchcraft and sorcery are the evil-doers inflicting various torment and pain. Sorrow, lamentation, physical pain, mental distress, and despair together with the multifarious defilements like greed, hatred, delusion, conceit, and wrong-view are the afflictions of wailing, laughing, madness, disgrace, and ruin. Thus, the suffering of consciousness is multiplied by the impermanence of consciousness within oneself.
The characteristics of the suffering of consciousness can be explained as:–
In former existences, deeds of generosity, morality, and meditation were performed with difficulty in order to achieve good existences later. These acts are the suffering of existence for the consciousness of good existences. Consciousness is inherently impermanent and needs to be re-established after each dissolution. Therefore, the cycle of rebirth is uncertain and so are consciousness and the suffering of existence.
There are two types of people who perform the wholesome deeds of generosity, morality, and so on. There are those who strive for their ultimate liberation from all kinds of suffering and pain. Then there are others who do this without any particular aim of attaining eternal peace. The first type belongs to those who strive for the final cessation of consciousness.
Those people are free from the suffering involved in generosity, morality, and meditation. They are liberated from suffering the lower realms. Why? It is because they are totally independent from impermanent consciousness. In other words, they are set free from the bonds of consciousness. Otherwise, in the endless cycle of rebirth, they will have no freedom from the suffering of carrying out generosity, morality, meditation, recluseship, monkhood, and their inherent burdens and hardships. The people belonging to the second type are foolish individuals who strive repeatedly to establish new types of consciousness. The advantages and disadvantages are obvious.
Here is an explanation. A wholesome deed of donation can be done only after one has collected goods to offer with some difficulty. However, that noble act is implemented with suffering because of the desire for the results that accrue from it. Moreover, there is the danger of sinking into the suffering of the lower realms if that act is not done.
According to the utterance of the Buddha: “The five aggregates as objects of attachment are called murderers — “Pañca vadhakā paccatthikāti kho, bhikkhave, pañcannetaṃ upādānakkhandhānaṃ adhivacanaṃ.” ⁹
The example of consciousness has already been explained. Of course, consciousness is a murderer wielding his sword of impermanence that incessantly kills human beings and throws them into the lower realms. The consciousness of deities also executes deities and throws them into lower realms. So does the consciousness of Brahmā. Foolish worldlings are afraid of the lower realms. They strive to perform good deeds of giving, morality, and meditation to achieve the consciousness and existence as deities and Brahmā. After attaining their longed-for achievements, they fall again into the lower realms. Without discarding consciousness, they are liable to fall from the highest existence into lowest and most unpleasant miserable existences. The chances of falling into the miserable existences are infinite. The suffering of existence for wholesome deeds is also infinite. The liability to fall into lower realms is eradicated after the cessation of personality-view, when one becomes a Stream-winner. Then the suffering of existence for noble deeds becomes trivial.
This is a brief explanation of the suffering of conditioned existence.
The suffering caused by change (vipariṇāma-dukkha) has become apparent by the examples of the murderer, the dispersal and danger of the cycle of rebirth. All suffering derived from impermanence is the suffering caused by change. The suffering of conditioned existence is at large in the endless cycle of rebirth because of the existence of change that gives rise to the establishing of towns, villages, and various associations in this world. That change also creates the fear of floods, fire, and other external dangers. If consciousness were free from change, then in this world there would be nothing to fear, dread, despise, or to be anxious or sad about.
End of the explanation of suffering caused by change.
Both physical and mental pain are included in the suffering of conditioned existence and the suffering caused by change.
Moreover, all kinds of suffering like the suffering of birth mentioned in the Sacca Vibhaṅga, the Cūḷadukkhakkhandha Sutta, and the exposition in the Jarā Sutta of the Mahāniddesa Pāḷi text belong to the category of the suffering of consciousness. All sorts of suffering belonging to the plane of desire, the plane of form, and the formless plane are contained in the suffering characteristic of consciousness. Therefore, realising the profound knowledge of suffering is very significant. After the attainment of Arahantship it is fully achieved. The Stream-winners, Once-returners, and Non-returners have only partially achieved it.
The explanation of profound knowledge of consciousness is complete.
The profound knowledge of not-self (anatta-pariññā), is of three kinds:–
The first one can be realised after discerning the truth of impermanence well. The second type can be accomplished after the visualization of painful suffering. If these two types are perceived well then the knowledge concerning the nature of non-compliance with one’s wishes is achieved.
Not-self means that there is no substance, framework, or essence in a person. It is not my substance, framework, or essence. If impermanence is well-discerned then the absence of essence will also be realised.
How is it to be discerned? The blind worldling clings to the concept of “I see” and “I am a person that exists for the whole of my life.” Personifying eye-consciousness, the notion of “I see” is apprehended. Eye-consciousness is thought to be permanent like “I” and one’s permanent essence. If the repeated appearances and disappearances of eye-consciousness are discerned well one will then realise that the egocentric concept is one thing and eye-consciousness is another. Then the fact that eye-consciousness lacks permanence and essence is discerned. The remaining types of consciousness are to be discerned in the same way.
End of the explanation permanence and essence.
The function of seeing is taken to be stable for the whole of one’s life, and is regarded as imperishable. That is the concept of stability and essence (dhuva sāra). If its repeated appearances and disappearances are discerned it can be perceived to be without any stability or essence. The other kinds of consciousness are to be discerned in the same way.
End of the explanation of stability and essence.
Seeing is a good function, a pleasant faculty that affords excellent and extensive bliss. It is reliable and beneficial. With good eye-sight, one can be equal to others. One can see the Sun and the Moon. The cardinal points like East and West can be known. One perceives colours, streets, and buildings, to understand the means of various professions. When compared with a blind man, the conceptual knowledge that arises from seeing is thought to be blissful (sukha) and possessing essence (sāra).
One cannot be free from the need of fire for lighting and cooking. Fire is useful, beneficial, and enjoyed by one who seeks it. It is worthless to one who has no need of it.
Fire is of great use to human beings who cannot live without it. Fire is beneficial and pleasant. However, it has the ability to burn everything it contacts. It can harm one who uses it, property, and family members. It can burn them all to ashes. However, one cannot manage without it and takes pleasure in it in spite of knowing that it is dangerous. Similarly, eye-consciousness is greatly valued and useful because of the need for it inherent in having a human body. Its functions are numerous. It is useful, beneficial, and pleasant. Therefore, the attachment to it increases. Countless hell-fires derive from the eye-door due to eye-consciousness. Also innumerable immoral deeds such as killing living beings are done because of it. One could not escape from the endless cycle of suffering because of one’s attachment to eye-consciousness as “I see.”
The dangers of the cycles of suffering, the lower realms of existence, and the Avīci hell are following all living beings even now. As been mentioned before, eye-consciousness is like an executioner. However, blind worldlings cannot see its true functions, so clings to it thinking it to be a great and excellent blessing. In this way, those who have the suffering framework in the five aggregates think that ear-consciousness is a great blessing. Nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, apprehension, giving, morality, and meditation are also taken to be blessings. The aforesaid countless faults of eye-consciousness are not discerned. This is the explanation of pleasure and essence, which is very great and firmly rooted in beings.
One must apply the above methods to the six types of consciousness as follows. Greed or craving is the fire of the cycle of rebirths that takes the mental groups of mindfulness, wisdom, confidence, and so on; the material groups such as extension and cohesion; the limbs including the head, legs, hands, eyes, ears, and nose, to be good. That is why relatives, buildings, jewels, gold, silver, friends, and the luxuries of men, deities, and Brahmā are thought to be good and noble.
End of the explanation of pleasure and essence.
The essence of self (atta-sāra) has already been mentioned. In the case of not-self, the six types of consciousness are not essence of permanence (nicca-sāra), essence of stability (dhuva-sāra) and not essence of pleasure (sukha-sāra).
Regarding the physical frame they are not permanent (nicca), stable (dhuva), self (atta), or soul (jīva). This has already been illustrated.
Why is it ungovernable in the case of not-self with the meaning of non-compliance to one’s wishes? One may ask, “Can one not look and see as one likes?” “Can the body not be carried wherever one wishes?”
In the example of the executioner, the capacity to carry on wherever one goes must be known by the constant healing by internal resistance, remedy, and treatment thus one escapes sudden death. In this example, healing is not done by one’s command. It does not obey one’s influence out of fear and respect. Healing is done on account of remedy and cure. The treatment for healing has to be carried out in good time. One has to serve first. The service of yesterday can give rise to healing today.
It is like the saying “If you were able to be a slave for the whole of your life I would be constantly in your service.” Healing occurs only because of the eternal service and suffering to establish fresh nutriments of activities. It is not under one’s own control or governance. It is the result of one’s prior slavish service to what one wrongly assumes to be a source of pleasure or enjoyment.
Fires and flames appear together and disappear simultaneously. Similarly, the mental concomitants and their associated consciousness appear and disappear together. If impermanence is perceived in consciousness the fact of impermanence in that mental group is already realised. If suffering and not-self are realised in consciousness they are already realised in that mental group. Dispelling knowledge is the same. This is the automatic accomplishment of the function of knowledge with respect to the mental aggregates.
Consciousness and the mental qualities cannot be distinguished by those who have no knowledge of the Abhidhamma. They think that greed and hatred are consciousness. This thought is useful in the section on insight. Those people must be taught to achieve the goal with a single consciousness by the instructor in insight meditation and not to give other names to the mental qualities.
One might have heard of greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), and delusion (moha). If one interrupts with questions about them then their nature should be explained properly in connection with consciousness.
If consciousness is discerned as different from the aggregate of matter through profound knowledge, then the profound knowledge of the impermanence of the aggregate of matter can also be attained by that discernment. It will be seen to be useless, not a being, not a soul, and not a self. It is devoid of essence like the stem of a plantain tree or a log of the silk cotton tree (Lombax Heptaphyllum). The material aggregate is similar to a large robot or puppet. Consciousness must be seen as being the operator of the robot or the manipulator of the puppet. Concerning the profound knowledge of suffering, whenever the characteristic of suffering is mentioned that of materiality is included. It is realised by the rather coarse perception of impermanence, aging, sickness, and death due to the visualization of the stem of a plantain tree or a rotten log of a silk cotton tree.
This is an opportunity that affords one the automatic realisation of the function of profound knowledge of the aggregate of matter.
Having attained this knowledge no higher practice is required. One might have made efforts in the higher practices countless times in an infinite number of former lives. However, one’s attachment to the notion of a self abiding in consciousness prevented one from being able to sever one’s craving and attachment to consciousness. In other words, one could not follow the way of profound knowledge. One has tried repeatedly to achieve the consciousness of a man, deity, or Brahmā. One’s efforts were only partial perfections, momentary, deceitful, confused, misdirected, perverted, and wrong perfections, which one wearied of doing. However, the hell-fires of Avīci still burned in the heart. The suffering for perfections was not yet ended. One had no chance to get rid of it in the future and so it remained.
Here is a simile of how those momentary perfections are deceitful, misdirected, and perverted. Suppose there was a pit that was a league in width and depth full of acacia wood embers. People only noticed the embers when they were in the pit. After climbing up to the rim of the pit, they found a number of short paths that they might follow. Some paths led back to the pit covering a distance of about five hundred yards. Some led back to the pit after covering a distance of two, four, or six miles. There was only one unmarked path leading to a far away town that did not lead back to the pit of embers. After falling into the pit of embers and experiencing great suffering, some people climbed up to the rim, climbed out, and ran away. However, they had already followed the well-travelled paths that many others had travelled before them. These were confusing and crooked paths that only lead back to the pit. So they fell back into the pit repeatedly. The straight main road was not smooth and it was used by only a few wayfarers, so they did not take it. Remember this example.
On the attainment of Arahantship, which can sever the continuous arising of the six types of consciousness and craving at one stroke of the sword of insight, and extinguish the hell-fires of Avīci burning within, and bring to an end all other kinds of suffering including that of the perfections, vanish without a trace. To indicate that fact, the Buddha declared:–
“Monks! (bhikkhave) if the nutrient of consciousness (viññāṇe āhāre) is fully comprehended (pariññāte) mental and material phenomena (nāma-rūpaṃ) are also comprehended (pariññātaṃ). With the comprehension of mental and material phenomena (nāma-rūpe pariññāte) the noble disciple (ariyasāvakassa) has nothing (natthi kiñci) more (uttari) to do (karanīyaṃ) in carrying out the supreme practice; thus (iti) I do declare (vadāmi).”
The achievement of the function of profound knowledge is described by the simile of the rebel who suffered the royal punishment to be pierced a hundred times with a spear in the morning, a hundred times at noon, and a hundred times at night. It should be borne in mind that this body is composed of the mental group aggregates and the aggregate of matters. The door of the mental group is the six types of consciousness.
The six objects of visible form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought come into the mental aggregate of the body through the door of six types of consciousness. They are like insurgents or robbers who force open doors, break into houses, murder people, and set fire to entire villages. That is why the Buddha taught, “Corā gāmaghātakāti kho, bhikkhave, channetaṃ bāhirānaṃ āyatanānaṃ adhivacanaṃ.” ¹⁰ It means the six sense objects are like insurgents and robbers who destroy towns and villages.
Here “doors” refers to the place where the clear appearance of consciousness arises on contact of a sense object with any part of the body. They are like transparent glass doors. They are not open doors, but only the place where the awareness of objects occurs. The arrivals of the groups of objects accompany the awareness of consciousness and they give rise to the invasion into the mental body of things like contact, feeling, and so on. That invasion causes chaotic conditions like in the village of Upper Chindwin that suffered attacks of insurgents, robbers, tigers, or barbarous tribes. They are the riots of greed, hatred, and so forth and belong to the mental group. Thinking, talking, speaking, crying, laughing, singing, and reciting verses, quarrels, and the movements of the body are also riotous uprisings of mental states.
The said example using the image of spears indicates the work of consciousness. The convicted rebel is like a person or being. The three hundred blows a day with a spear are like the six types of consciousness. The holes pierced by the spear all over the body are akin to appearances of the six types of consciousness. The internal flesh hurt by the points of the spears resembles the mental group of suffering. By this example, the profound knowledge of the intense characteristic of suffering is shown. At the start of the torture to the body, all the factors of suffering invade by way of the door of consciousness and this is shown in various ways in the section on the profound knowledge of suffering.
In other words, this is an example to show in comparison with the complete achievement of the profound knowledge at the attainment of Arahantship. The convict derives no pleasure from the presence of the torturers who pierce him with spears, from the spears themselves, or from their thrusts into his body. He knows only ever-increasing pain and fear. Similarly, one’s effort at attaining this profound knowledge should be exercised so that one is filled with great fear in the light of that knowledge until one no longer has any craving for the six sense objects or the six types of consciousness enjoying the said objects. This kind of effort can achieve the function of profound knowledge. Thus, the standard of effort is shown by that example and if it is accomplished one becomes an Arahant. For those who become Arahants, awareness of fearfulness, knowledge of misery, and knowledge of disgust are firmly established. That is why the attainment of cessation (nirodha-samāpatti), which is the cessation of the six types of consciousness for seven days is called nibbāna experienced here and now (diṭṭhadhamma-nibbāna). It is the attainment enjoyed by one who does not want to tolerate the insurrection of the four mental aggregates together with six types of consciousness at every instigation of six objects. That attainment is called cessation and it is clear that the arising of six types of consciousness is a great harm to Arahants. Comparing with examples, all six types of consciousness and the natural states of all three planes should be contemplated to be discerned. Being a slave of paddy by ploughing the field, one can get the rice. Take note of all in this way.
In this world, one becomes a slave because of the lending of money and properties by the so-called master by paying back in service. Dwelling in a house is possible by the service of treatment, food, and clothing. Kings and rulers are called the lords of their subjects. However, they cannot govern to be free from the suffering of conditioned existence, which is maintained with a great deal of exertion and suffering due to change in one’s body. That king or ruler cannot govern even his own life and body in that way. People are afraid of the king’s power and potential torture and they comply with his wishes to a certain extent, thus he can govern them.
On account of freedom of thought, speech, and bodily movements of going and coming according to their wishes, people think that they have control over their own body. In this matter, various suffering of conditional states, which are maintained with a great deal of trouble like feeding and medical treatments, service that has to be done in advance, should be known by the example of healing. Being a slave of feeding, treatment, and nurture, on previous days, apprehension, thought, speech, and bodily movements are done for the constant maintenance of the ultimate realities.
This is the brief explanation of not-self in connection with not complying with the wishes of a person or being.
The said factors of Dependent Origination in profound knowledge of impermanence are apparent possibilities relating to only cause. Moreover, not-self is too extensive to be explained in line with the discourse of Conditional Relations (Paṭṭhāna). It is for the purpose of Omniscience and not essential for the insight meditator. Partial knowledge of it will be enough to succeed. Dependent Origination has been shown by a single relation of object in the aforesaid profound knowledge of impermanence. It is accomplished if one can perceive and discern in that way.
Among the three profound knowledges of impermanence, suffering, and not-self, the chief necessity is profound knowledge of impermanence. After achieving that the remainder can be accomplished.
The process of mundane and supramundane dispelling knowledge like knowledge of awareness of fearfulness and knowledge of misery, disgust, and desire for deliverance up to the path of Non-returning should be known as it is mentioned in the meditation on the nutrient factors of food.
This meditation of the nutrient of consciousness can lead to the attainment of Arahantship. Dispelling knowledge is totally achieved after the termination of pleasurable attachment to consciousness on the attainment of Arahantship. Stream-winners, Once-returners, and Non-returners have achieved only profound knowledge of impermanence and profound knowledge of not-self in the six types of consciousness, but not profound knowledge of suffering. They still have craving for consciousness as pleasure. Exertion to develop awareness of fearfulness, and knowledge of misery, disgust, and desire for deliverance is not yet complete. In the course of developing awareness of fearfulness and knowledge of misery, the suffering of consciousness is perceived. When not meditating, they are accompanied by the perception of pleasure as usual. The luxuries of human beings, deities, and Brahmā are visualized. A Non-returner only has thoughts of the luxury of Brahmā, but not of men or deities. It is unnecessary to say anything about worldlings who strive to develop insight. Those worldlings are said to have insight, but they can only have firm and constant profound knowledge of impermanence and not-self. They can perceive the profound knowledge of suffering in the course of contemplation, but at other times the notion of pleasure reappears as usual. In the course of awareness of fearfulness, and knowledge of misery, and disgust, profound knowledge of suffering gradually develops and the path of Stream-winning is attained at the total cessation of self-view. Then one proceeds to knowledge of reviewing (paccavekkhaṇa-ñāṇa). After rising up from retrospection, the perception of pleasure emerges again as usual. If the meditator is a lay person, as usual he or she can enjoy wealth, pleasures, and family life. Some people (wrongly) think that the really successful insight meditators cannot live happily in active physical matters.
Here is the simile. There are two poisonous trees. The taproot of a tree is totally cut. Another tree remains in its original form. Although the taproot of the first tree has been cut, it is not different from an ordinary tree as it still has other small roots and the whole tree above the ground is not sapless. It remains exuberant. That tree belongs to a kind of abundant sap and its exuberance reduces slowly and steadily. The ordinary tree is perpetually luxuriant and can multiply the poisonous trees to form a big forest. To ordinary eyes, the exuberance is the same. However, there is the difference as it is mentioned in the said simile. The luxuriance of the worldlings who have perceived insight and a Stream-winner is different from that of blind worldlings. Ignorance is not blessed, but prone to great offence and that fact is shown with the example.
End of dispelling knowledge of the nutrient of consciousness.
The achievement of threefold profound knowledge in the nutrient of consciousness leads to profound knowledge of mentality and materiality. After the achievement of threefold profound knowledge in those three types of consciousness, mentality, and materiality, there is no more function of perfections for the path and the dispensation. To point out that fact, the Buddha said:–
“Monks! (bhikkhave) if the nutrient of consciousness (viññāṇe āhāre) is fully comprehended (pariññāte) mental and material phenomena (nāma-rūpaṃ) are also comprehended (pariññātaṃ). With the comprehension of mental and material phenomena (nāma-rūpe pariññāte) the noble disciple (ariyasāvakassa) has nothing (natthi kiñci) more (uttari) to do (karanīyaṃ) in carrying out the supreme practice; thus (iti) I do declare (vadāmi).”
Now the meditation on the nutrient of contact will be explained. The direct knowledge of the nutrient of contact has already been mentioned in three mental nutriments. According to the words “He knows nutriment (āhāraṃ jānāti),” the discrimination of the truth of suffering should be shown in accordance with fifteen cycles of suffering for the nutrient of consciousness. Consciousness and contact are close associates with the same appearance and disappearance, according to their functions, they are mentioned one after another. Consciousness is similar to the open door of a town. Contact resembles the door-keeper who inspects all comers, whether they are good or bad, near the gate. There are many examples to be taken in this way.
In distinctive places, the function of consciousness is conspicuous in mere seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and knowing. The function of contact is not evident. Of the apparent objects that are good or bad to look at, to hear, and so on, contact is obvious. Contact is named eye-contact, ear-contact, and so forth.
End of direct knowledge in brief.
Threefold analytical knowledge (tīraṇa-pariññā) is similar to consciousness. In the place of six types of consciousness there are six types of contact. Dispelling knowledge is the same as in consciousness. Meditation on the nutrient of contact can achieve Arahantship. The profound knowledge in contact is accomplished at the attainment of Arahantship. If the function of analytical knowledge is accomplished in the nutrient of contact in conformity with consciousness, analytical knowledge of three kinds of feelings is also accomplished. Dispelling knowledge is the same because contact and feeling are very similar in function. Contact accompanied by pleasure (sukha samphassa) and pleasurable feeling (sukha-vedanā) seem to be a single entity. If profound knowledge of suffering in the pleasurable contact is achieved, profound knowledge of pleasurable feeling is also certainly achieved. Therefore, the remaining functions of profound knowledge are also achieved. Feeling is the main driving force for living-beings. All sorts of human and celestial pleasure are called pleasurable feeling. The suffering of the lower realms and the suffering known by majority of people are painful feeling (dukkha-vedanā). The longing and craving for the lives of men, deities, and Brahmā are also the longing and craving for the pleasurable feelings of those lives. If the pleasure of those lives are perceived and discerned to be suffering, the material and mental aggregates of those lives become worthless. That is why, the Buddha has declared:–
“Phasse, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte tisso vedanā pariññātā honti. Tīsu vedanāsu pariññātāsu ariyasāvakassa natthi kiñci uttari karaṇīyanti vadāmi.” (S.ii.99)
“Monks (bhikkhave)! If the nutrient of contact (phasse āhāre) is comprehended (pariññāte), the three kinds of feeling (tisso vedanā) are also comprehended (pariññātā honti). After comprehension of the three kinds of feeling (tisu vedanāsu pariññātāsu), the noble disciple (ariyasāvakassa) has nothing (natthi kiñci) more (uttari) to do (karanīyaṃ) [in carrying out the supreme practice]; thus (iti), do I declare (vadāmi).”
Here is a simile of the accomplishment of the three kinds of profound knowledge. There is a cow without skin. She has no skin on any part of her body and looks like a lump of red meat. Dogs, crows, vultures, gadflies, and blue-bottles bite and peck her so that her suffering swells like the spring tide. If she goes into the bushes she is struck by branches, twigs, leaves, and thorns and her suffering becomes like a flood-tide.
This is the meaning of the simile. The cow resembles the body of living-beings. The skinless condition is like the nutrient of consciousness. Consciousness is a very clear door that is always open. The nutrient of contact is like the mass of red meat that suffers severe pain even from a gentle touch. The external sentient and insentient things are like six sorts of objects.
If the bodies of beings including you and I are touched by troublesome objects of the sun’s heat, hot winds, fires, gadflies, mosquitoes, lice, bugs, and so on there is no place where the painful suffering cannot arise. The painful suffering is incessant because those troublesome objects are prolific. However, it is the typical example of the accomplishment of profound knowledge attained only by an Arahant in all kinds of contact and feeling accompanied by pleasure or pain in the planes of men, deities, and Brahmā.
Of the nutrient of volition, the direct knowledge is the same as was mentioned in the nature of profound knowledge in the analysis of three mental nutrients and fifteen cycles of suffering explained in the nutrient of consciousness. Analytical knowledge and dispelling knowledge are in conformity with the nutrient of consciousness. In place of six types of consciousness, six categories of volition such as volition born of materiality (rūpa-sañcetanā) should be explained.
If three kinds of profound knowledge of the nutrient of volition are mastered, three sorts of craving are overcome. They are craving for sense pleasure (kāma-taṇhā), craving for form (rūpa-taṇhā), and craving for the formless (arūpa-taṇhā).
Those three will be expounded in terms of volition — which throws beings into the next existence — and craving. In the analysis of three mental nutrients, volition is like the charioteer who hits and drives the harnessed horse of the carriage with a whip. Like this example, volition continuously drives the four mental aggregates from life to life. However, they can only join the next existence with the help of craving, the truth of the cause. They cannot proceed to the next life without the help of craving.
Here is the simile. Ordinary dry earth cannot be made into cannon-balls to fire to the opposite bank of a river. They will not reach the opposite bank, but will disperse near the muzzle of the cannon because they are without coherence. If ordinary earth is powdered and mixed with wet clay to be like concrete and baked into hard cannon-balls they can be used to fire to the opposite bank. Those cannon-balls will reach the opposite bank and hit the targets to be destroyed. This is due to the quality of coherence. Take note of this simile.
The volition of Arahants is like the dry powdered earth without coherence. Every action of body, speech, and mind is accompanied by the instigation of volition without the coherence of craving. Each volition vanishes totally at the end of the volitional thought-process (javana-vīthi) before the fulfilment of action (kamma-samaṅgitā). The volition of worldlings (puthujjana) and trainers (sekha), is similar to the earthen cannon-balls prepared with coherent materials. Volition at every occurrence of three kinds of actions is accompanied by coherence of craving and it continues after the end of the cognition thought-process to encourage the next series of consciousness to sow the seeds of fulfilment of action before its cessation. Craving is the natural coherent element that takes hold of the pleasant attachment to “My body,” “My mind,” “My volition,” etc. This is the association of volition and craving that throws beings into another existence.
Therefore, if volition is discerned as a gigantic pot or enormous seed of suffering, the three kinds of craving will be seen as the same. Needless to say about their creation of life, mentality, and materiality. Therefore, the Buddha taught:–
“Manosañcetanāya, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte tisso taṇhā pariññātā honti. Tīsu taṇhāsu pariññātāsu ariyasāvakassa natthi kiñci uttarikaraṇīyanti vadāmi.” (S.ii.99)
“Monks (bhikkhave)! If the nutrient of volition (manosañcetanāya āhāre) is comprehended (pariññāte), the three kinds of feeling (tisso vedanā) are also comprehended (pariññātā honti). After comprehension of the threefold kinds of feeling (tisu vedanāsu pariññātāsu), the noble disciple (ariyasāvakassa) has nothing (natthi kiñci) more (uttari) to do (karanīyaṃ) [to carry out the supreme practice]; thus (iti), do I declare (vadāmi).”
The simile of profound knowledge is a crossroad where people pass by going and coming. There are two large pits of embers beside that junction. Two strong men living near those two pits catch hold of the people who come near and throw them into those two pits.
The realms of unpleasant or unfortunate existence (duggati), the gigantic suffering and the pleasant realms of fortunate existence (sugati) full of the flames of defilements are like the two large pits of embers. Good and bad kinds of volition are similar to those two strong men. The driving mental state of volition to throw beings to other existences is like being throw into the pits of embers. Catching hold of whoever comes near resembles the attachment with craving, conceit, and wrong-view for the momentary and incessant appearances of consciousness and volition in oneself as “I, my mind, my thought, my volition, my donation, my morality, my good deed, etc.”
One who has desire and attachment for those volitions is like the foolish traveller who clings to and climbs up the strong men who throw people into the pits of embers. The clinging person is dragged up to the neighbourhood of death. After death, he or she is thrown into another existence.
The clinging persons are able to be dragged because they have attachment to consciousness and volition as “I, mine, and myself,” and they do not strive to develop the Noble Eightfold Path to get rid of craving, conceit, and wrong-view. Moreover, they enjoy worldly affairs according to their wishes, and are exerting for the worldly good conditions, without paying attention to the development of insight. A person who tries assiduously to attain insight on the path, noting and cutting off the effluent consciousness and volition that takes delight in those affairs cannot be dragged by that volition.
Here ends the exposition of the nutrient of volition.
Here ends the exposition of the four nutrients that can eradicate all kinds of suffering by a single realisation of the Dhamma as a single medicinal root can cure all sorts of diseases.
Now, I shall explain briefly the five aggregates:–
The nutrient of volition is chiefly called mental concomitants (saṅkhārā). Therefore, the aggregate of consciousness and the aggregate of mental concomitants have no special facts to be explained further. Materiality is closely related to the nutrient factors of food and it can be included in the explanation of the nutrient factors of food. Feeling and perception are very similar to contact and can considered in the nutrient of contact.
According to the Salla Sutta ¹¹ and the Cūḷataṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta ¹² the function of meditation can be achieved by feeling alone. In the Dīghanakha Sutta ¹³ (elsewhere referred to as the Vedanā-pariggaha Sutta), the wandering ascetic Dīghanakha attains the Path and its Fruition by contemplating only feeling. Feeling is easy to contemplate and controlled by knowledge. In the contemplation of consciousness and contact, they are explained in association with feeling. Therefore, those who want to gain insight (vipassanā) should pay incessant attention to feelings. The methods shown in the explanation of consciousness are quite enough.
Perception is the work of recognising objects. From the time of parturition, it takes note of all things encountered such as,”This is mother, this is father, and so on.” If one recollects they reappear in the mind for noting in that way. Consciousness is not the work of noting, but awareness. It is the function to perceive the object that comes towards it. The encountered object will not appear again in reflection according to consciousness. Thanks to former perception, there are things that are already known now. Without perception one will not be able to remember one’s own name. Consciousness indicates the object that is noted by perception. It is wisdom that can expose the states of nature beyond the range of consciousness. Every indication of wisdom is also noted by perception. Wisdom is not that which notes, but that which realises. Consciousness is like a magician that shows the unreal as the real. It creates and shows the absence of things as the presence of them. Perception notes every exhibition of consciousness as reality. Wisdom indicates only the real. Perception also takes note of every indication of wisdom. However, only consciousness is living together with perception. Wisdom is an occasional companion. At every dispute between consciousness and wisdom, perception sides with consciousness as a great witness. Here is the evidence.
Wisdom says that the body is impermanent, but consciousness says it is permanent and they conflict. Presenting all of its constant notes, perception testifies in favour of permanence. Those of consciousness and perception that contemplate with knowledge as impermanent contradict and reject the testimony and affirm as usual. At the attainment of Stream-winning, the permanence party is totally defeated and impermanence is ratified. In the case of happiness and suffering, wisdom only conquers totally on the attainment of Arahantship, and suffering is confirmed. In the controversy over self and not-self at the attainment of Stream-winning, not-self is affirmed. Here is the simile. Being hungry, an ogress takes the appearance of a celestial damsel. Every appearance is seen by consciousness, noted by perception, encountered by contact, and enjoyed by feeling to be very beautiful. Instigating greed, volition arises. Greed loves it very much. That person then becomes the food of the ogress.
A wise man is shown in the same way. Consciousness sees the appearance of a celestial lady. Reasoning that there is no shadow, wisdom knows she is an ogress. Contact meets the ogress. At every meeting, feeling feels mental pains to be very bad. Instigating knowledge and energetic effort, volition rises to escape. Thus, the abilities of perception, consciousness, and wisdom are to be realised. Consciousness and perception are disguised as wisdom in the person of tender wisdom. Those people think the knowing of perception and consciousness to be wisdom. They are cheated by consciousness and perception. This is the way of wrong-view. The tender, medium, and mature wrong-views are:–
Perception is the tender wrong-view, consciousness is the medium wrong-view, and false view is the matured wrong-view. They develop from the tender to the medium from which they become matured. Take great heed not to be cheated by consciousness and perception.
End of the exposition of the nature of perception.
The remaining three kinds of profound knowledge are not different from those of consciousness and contact in explanation. Arahantship can be attained by profound knowledge of one of these four mental aggregates:–
Profound knowledge of the aggregate of materiality (rūpakkhandhā) can lead only to Non-returning. After the attainment of Non-returning it is not difficult to proceed to Arahantship as the discernment and way are destined to reach the goal. If it is not attained in the present life, it is sure to be attained in the Brahmā realm. The condition of certain attainment has already been entered in the list of those attained. Therefore, those good men who see now the danger of the cycle of rebirth should take one of the five aggregates as a basis for constant meditation according to their liking and try their best.
Of those five aggregates, it is not necessary to mention the methods of meditation of four mental aggregates as they are already included in four mental nutriments.
The aggregate of materiality is also included in the nutrient factors of food, but it needs more explanation to be clear. There are two kinds of meditators contemplating materiality: one with sharp knowledge and another with weak knowledge. The one with sharp knowledge can accomplish the task with only one word of materiality. The one of weak knowledge must study extension (paṭhavī), cohesion (āpo), temperature (tejo), and motion (vāyo), together with derived materiality (upādā-rūpaṃ) according to the analysis of Suttanta. Apart from the four primary elements, the others are derived materiality. The said material qualities should be studied and noted to be of five kinds. In colloquial language, the four primary elements are earth, water, fire, and air. The others are the group of derived material qualities.
In the explanation by one word (i.e. materiality), knowledge of comprehension (sammasana-ñāṇa) that observes, explores, and determines the three characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and not-self and knowledge of arising and passing away (udayabbaya-ñāṇa) are included and the first instruction by the element of fire is easily discernible. The nature of fire typifying in the glowing hot embers of acacia wood should be visualized. The characteristic of fire is temperature and accordingly it is natural to rise and develop reflecting heat regularly. It is called fire (tejo) or climate (utu) due to reflecting heat regularly, rising, moving up, and developing that can be seen as if by the eyes. They are the increase of fire from mother to children and from generation to generation. The incessant birth and growth are called the increase of fire. This is called the regular rising reflecting heat.
The regular movement and arising occur for the shift of the cessation of the old, group by group, and the sudden appearance of the new, group by group. Their swiftness is very obvious under close and thorough scrutiny. The more the swiftness of their movement and development is seen the more the quickness of their cessation and disappearance becomes apparent. The movements of the flame and the flow of the current of the water in a river are to be known in the same way.
Each nature of the reality does not rise or move to be seen by eyes. It is the movement caused by new occurrences group by group. Here knowing of consciousness and knowing of knowledge should be explained. I shall show by a simile. A man travels in the darkness of the night with a lamp. The circle of the light along the path does not disappear in knowing by consciousness. He knows it is following him wherever he goes. He thinks and sees so. By knowing of knowledge, it is the continuation of new appearances serially. It is not the collection of states that can move from the place of occurrence without cessation. The darkness seemed to be following him is the successive disappearance of the old light. The new appearances of the groups of dark elements are contiguous at the place of the disappearance of light.
Here is another example. When the mail train is running at full speed, the forests, mountains, trees, ground, fields and farms seem to be running in a circle by the discernment of consciousness. The discernment of knowledge with reason realises that only the train is running, but the forests, mountains, and so on are not moving. Thus, in every case, the discernment of consciousness is mostly wrong. We should know every discernment of knowledge of any sight is right. In the selection of realities, the discernment of consciousness and illusions are to be put totally on the wrong side. In turning towards the object, the discernment of consciousness and illusion always appear initially. If we can get rid of the illusory discernment of consciousness there is the chance of the appearance of reality. On the contrary, the reality will not appear.
When a mountain is looked at from a distance it seems to be an entity of darkness. It is the discernment of consciousness. From that distance, that darkness is not found by the discernment of knowledge. It is not an entity. Countless kinds of stones, trees, branches, twigs and leaves are found. Arriving on the mountain, the various sorts of stones, trees, bushes, branches, twigs and leaves are seen again. It is also the discernment of consciousness. After getting rid of the discernment of consciousness by knowledge, only the material qualities of eightfold groups are found when the realities are searched for. All sorts of stones, trees, bushes, branches, twigs, leaves, and shoots disappear. An artist looks at the scenes from a distance when he wants to draw the appearance of a mountain. He cannot find the chance of drawing the picture of the mountain after climbing up and seeing it. He cannot draw it there. The picture of a tree can be drawn by the discernment of consciousness. There is no chance to draw it with the discernment of knowledge because the true ultimate realities (paramattha dhammā) like earth (paṭhavī), water (āpo), and so on have no frame, substance, or form — not even as a tiny atom. The appearance and disappearance of the really existing materiality and mentality are different to those seen by the discernment of consciousness.
Mentality can exist for only three instants (khaṇa): genesis (uppāda), stasis (ṭhiti), and dissolution (bhaṅga). If the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning is divided into a thousand parts those three instants will be equal to a single part in duration. The life of mental qualities lasting for three instants is real, true, and right. It is the nature of reality not to cease, decay, and die before the right moment. At the termination of its life-span, it cannot persist without cessation, destruction, and death. This is the true characteristic of life. The mental qualities are viable only for three instants. Even the Omniscient Buddha, Sakka, and Brahma cannot make the mental qualities arisen at the instant of genesis cease there and not proceed to stasis, and dissolution. It is natural for them to cease at the instant of dissolution (bhaṅga). The arisen material qualities such as earth, water, and fire, can persist seventeen times longer than mental qualities. A single life of materiality has to be followed by seventeen lives of mentality. A series of materiality has to be followed by seventeen series of mentality. The material life that equals seventeen mental lives really exists. That is the real life-limit of all sentient and insentient things of thirty-one planes to be known.
In the discernment of consciousness, the life of a being lasts for the whole life. At the time of death in the end, it ceases and vanishes. It seems to be free from cessation and dissolution before death. If the life seen by consciousness really existed, at the age of a hundred year life-span, all human beings may be able to live up to their one hundredth year. A human being will not be killed even if struck by lightning, burnt by fire, or sliced by a sharp weapon before the completion of the hundred year life-span. It may be accomplished in invulnerability and longevity. It is not so. Any human being may die at any moment in youth, middle age, or old age. Therefore, it is apparent that life as seen by consciousness is not the real and true one. It is obvious that consciousness is used to see the unreal as the real and to see absence as presence. It is false and misleading.
The analysis of cessation and death will be explained here. There is no interval in the life of a being from the moment of conception, not even for the blink of an eye, without two kinds of mental and material death. According to the age limits of mental and material qualities, there are always incessant deaths. The example of the executioner who is hacking the victim to inflict wounds from the moment of conception shown in the nutrient of consciousness should be taken here. In that example, if the effort is made to always have a remedy that heals the wound at every chop of the sword and escapes from death, it lengthens life. Similarly, there are always incessant disappearances of mentality and materiality on the one hand and incessant appearances on the other. Two series of incessant deaths and births may run in parallel for a hundred years. The series of the deaths of the old and the births of the new run in parallel, however, there is no continuation of new appearances after the deadly chop of the sword of death. The process of the body is cut off by that chop. The consciousness of a being sees only the single death at the cessation of the process of the body. Due to the concept of continuity (santati-paññatti), the incessant disappearances and deaths of materiality and mentality throughout life from the moment of conception are concealed. There is total blindness to them. Not being seen, those deaths and disappearances are rejected as false. Therefore, there is the notion of a single life for an entire existence and a single death of a life forever. Perception decides firmly and wrong-view clings. This view is firm, pervasive, and stable — as pointed out by the Buddha. The ordinary worldlings really existing in the cycle of rebirth are totally cheated by their own wrong views. Life merely consists of mentality and materiality. There is no life of a being that is thought to have a soul. Death is only death of mentality and materiality. There is no death of a being or soul. I shall explain all of these.
Mental life consists of three instants and the third instant is only that of cessation and death. However,the extreme end of mentality is included and it means it lives for three instants. To test logically whether there is real mental life of three instants or not, the emergent four mental aggregates should be struck with a bolt of lightning during the moment of genesis. Similarly, they should be tested at the moment of development. If that life does not really exist the mentality will be destroyed at the instant of genesis or development. That mentality will not be able to proceed to third instant. If that life really exists it will not be hurt or shaken in the slightest even though it is struck by lightning during those instants. The third instant will be reached definitely. Within seventeen times of mental life, materiality will not be hurt and shaken in the slightest even though it is struck by lightning. It is natural to live and remain until the last instant. Lasting so, there is material life as well as mental life and there will not be any fear, panic, or anxiety before the termination of their life-span even if they are struck by lightning. This is the natural characteristic of the real and true life.
Knowledge of Comprehension (sammasana-ñāṇa) observes, explores and determines the three characteristics.
The respective mentality and materiality before the contiguity (anantara) of last instant of stasis (ṭhiti) cannot be prevented by the Omniscient Buddha, Sakka, or Brahma with power, might, celestial medicine, and divine remedies from arriving at the instant of dissolution (bhaṅga), but to remain at stasis. In due course, they will cease, vanish, and reach dissolution. This is the logical reason to show the real existence of mental and material death.
There is no iota of a being called a soul (jīva) anywhere in the three worlds. According to the characteristic mentioned in material and mental life, before the termination of the age limit, there is the life of special nature that will not move or deviate from its original position even if struck by lightning. That nature is called life.
Except material life and mental life, there is a so-called single life of an existence. There are human beings who are twenty to ninety years of age or more. In the plane of Cātummahārājikā-devā, the age limit is five hundred celestial years. The age limit of Tāvatiṃsa is one thousand celestial years and so forth. If the soul existed as a separate entity in conformity with common parlance, there will not be any deviation of the life and body from its original condition for the infliction of great harm such as famine, lightning strikes, and so on. One could live peacefully without any fear or anxiety regarding internal and external dangers. However, it is not so. We cannot bear the affliction of hunger, which is a grave danger. There are fear and anxiety regarding hunger. There is incessant suffering from fear and anxiety regarding various internal and external dangers. Let alone periods of a decade or more, there is no safety from hunger and the affliction of those dangers even for a year. There is no certainty of life for a season, a month, or a day — not even for an hour. There is no life without pain, change, fear, or anxiety for a blink of an eye. The body can be maimed in an instant. It is obvious and realisable for oneself that life is insubstantial and unreliable. There are only materiality and mentality, which are exceedingly brief and do not last even for one billionth of the blink of an eye.
This is the explanation of the absence of the so-called soul that is said to exist and taken to be real by the discernment of consciousness.
Apart from material and mental death, there are no other deaths of persons or beings. This fact should be sufficient to be clearly known in accordance with the simile of the executioner and the strokes of a sword. This is the exposition of the difference between the wrong discernment of consciousness and the right discernment of knowledge. It is a very grave obstruction (antarāya) to the Dhamma, to those who seek impermanence and strive for the attention to impermanence in the discernment of consciousness and illusion. I shall explain a little further to be clearer.
Here is the differentiation of the discernment of consciousness and the discernment of knowledge of the acacia-embers shown first of all. The life of fire that lasts from inception until the acacia-embers are all burnt up and extinguished automatically is the discernment of consciousness. Considering the details seen by the eyes such as its arising, growth, flickering, spread and contraction, appearance, and disappearance, as well as the chance of expiry by dousing at any time, there is no life of a fire to last for long. This is the discernment of knowledge.
Again, in seeing the flickering of fire group by group, the illusion of only a single entity of fire in a group from inception until the middle and the end is the discernment of consciousness. The arising of a group means it should be at least the discernment for a blink of an eye. If fire can last for a blink of an eye it may not be possible to extinguish it even by pouring gallons of water at once. Reasoning with knowledge, any life, soul, or essence is not found to exist that can resist the affliction of water. Thus, the discernment of the chance of repeated deaths in a blink of an eye is that of knowledge.
However, that knowledge by inference (anumāna-ñāṇa) is gained by logical reasoning. In the case of insight knowledge, it is accomplished if the longevity for even the blink of an eye is discerned. The absence of reliability, a being, soul, or self, becomes very clear if the absence of longevity is realised. The function of insight knowledge is the initial resistance and destruction of the perception of permanence (nicca-saññā), the thought of permanence (nicca-citta), the view of permanence (nicca-diṭṭhi), the perception of self (atta-saññā), the thought of self (atta-citta), and the view of self (atta-diṭṭhi).
Perception, thought, and view of permanence and self, which are firmly established in the endless cycle of rebirth, have no vestige of the logical and right reasoning of inference. The discernment of knowledge can be over-ruled immediately by perception, thought, and wrong-view, as a line drawn on swiftly flowing water is dispelled instantly by the current. The discernment of knowledge, like present evident vision seen by the eyes, can shake, recondition, and over-rule those firm wrong beliefs (micchābhinivesa). In the course of teaching about the suffering of the lower realms, the listeners are filled with a vague fear only for that moment. Everybody will be filled with fear if someone can expose the eight great hells to be seen directly in the present after dividing the earth like Candagutta Mahāthera of Sri Lanka, the ascetics Saṃkicca, and Sarabhaṅga. Note in accordance with this example.
A blink of an eye is very quick for the consciousness of a being. The detailed contemplation more than that will be far from analysed vision. Without analysed vision, it is not the discernment of insight knowledge, but only the discernment of inferential knowledge. The function of insight is the destruction of the perception, thought, and view of permanence and self. Destruction of perception, thought, and view of self is first. Perception of impermanence and not-self are accomplished if there is some realisation of not-self. After realisation of not-self, realisation of impermanence is accomplished. Suffering can be ended at the attainment of Arahantship. Those perception, thought, and view of self cannot apprehend those that are quicker than a blink of an eye. Beyond their domain of their apprehension and attachment, they will have no shelter. This is a reason. For these reasons, in the contemplation of appearance and disappearance concerning the function of profound knowledge of impermanence, we should admonish and instruct our disciples to visualise the impermanence of continuity with facts.
This is the examination to make the ideal standard from the example of fire in the acacia-embers.
The aggregate of material qualities is full of the group of real fire without leaving a gap the size of a needle-tip or an atom. That group of fire is similar to the fire of acacia embers. That body is the fuel of real fire. Like the incessant arising of fire of acacia embers, the similar nature of the fire of the body will be realised. If the incessant arising fire in the whole body is realised knowledge will be able to decide that there is not an iota of indestructible material substance even for a blink of an eye. Knowledge can only decide, but it cannot fully discern appearances and disappearances analytically. The image of a man reflected in a tiny group of bubbles has no foundation after the cessation of those bubbles. The liability to dissolution can be discerned well. Similarly, the mental aggregates depending on matter are involved in the destruction of every material aggregate. Thus, the decision of knowledge will be attained. All material aggregates of countless beings are understood if one’s own body is discerned well. All fuels of fire, such as the Himalayas, the entire earth, or the universe are also understood.
This is the explanation of knowledge by comprehension that observes, explores, and determines the three characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and not-self. The method of cutting continuity based on fire according to the exposition of the Commentaries that the impermanent characteristic is concealed by continuity and that characteristic can be perceived by contemplation after separating the continuity. The methods of separating and cutting continuity are many. They depend mainly on the reasoning power of the meditation instructor. The explanation based on fire in this book is only substituting a more inclusive term for a less inclusive one (upalakkhaṇā) or vice versa.
Here, I shall explain briefly the knowledge of arising and passing away (udayabbaya-ñāṇa) in the aggregate of material qualities. Knowledge by comprehension contemplates and enables one to decide that materiality and mentality are unable to exist for a blink of an eye or a flash of lightning. This does not enable one to analyse the incessant appearances and disappearances in groups with speed. They can be discerned only by the knowledge that will be explained now. After accomplishment of the skilful function of cutting and getting rid of illusion at the former stage of knowledge by comprehension, the easy attainment of the knowledge of arising and passing away will be possible. Unless this higher stage of knowledge has already been achieved the task of clearing away illusion must begin at the stage of knowledge by comprehension.
I shall explain with a simile. A lump of dry mud composed of silt, with a weight of ten pounds, about the size of an almsbowl, may be taken as a standard. The top of that lump of mud must be hit with a pestle to make it vibrate. As it is hit the vibrating grains of silt will be perceived.
Here is the method to discriminate between the discernment of consciousness and the discernment of knowledge. As soon as the lump of mud is hit, all of the silt grains of the lump vibrate and move from their original position. Everybody can see the change. If people are asked,”Is the original condition destroyed?” they will reply, “Yes, it is.” If they are asked again, “How is the original condition destroyed?” they will answer that the lump of mud vibrates and each grain of silt moves a little.
This is like the answer to the discernment of consciousness. If it is asked how the original condition is destroyed, the nature of destruction is not seen as it is hidden by the continuity of arising. Vibrating and moving are obvious new occurrences that are taken as the nature of destruction. There are two ways in the discernment of knowledge: the way of destruction and the way of occurrence as soon as it is hit by the pestle. In the case of destruction of the original condition, condition means the existing collection of silt grains before the lump is hit. Total disappearance of material groups of silt grains is called the destruction of the original condition. Shaking and moving are not even the destruction or disappearance, but a new kind of arising. Of those two ways, that which follows the way of cessation, disappearance, and destruction is that lump of ten pounds. Newly arisen material groups of silt after the pestle hits will be the same with the weight of ten pounds.
Of those ways, the discernment of genesis of the newly arisen material groups is the knowledge that discerns the inception of arising (udaya). The discernment of total simultaneous destruction and disappearance at once is the knowledge of passing away (vaya-ñāṇa). After they all vibrate and move, they will become still again as before. Here, there are two phenomena: the total destruction of the ten pounds of vibrating material qualities, and the new occurrence of ten pounds of still material qualities.
The discernment of consciousness cannot differentiate the two phenomena because of the newly arisen movement of continuity concept, conceals the total cessation of old material qualities, so that they are not noticed. In the case of the vanishing of old material qualities, the cessation cannot be noticed because of the simultaneous replacement that is called prevalence.
Cessation may be noticeable as a separated event if new appearance takes place a little while after total cessation. It may be apparent that the ceased collection of material groups of silt is the complete weight of ten pounds. Here the discernment of consciousness sees the destruction. Destruction is a kind of ultimate reality (paramattha dhamma), called the cessation of materiality (bhaṅga-rūpa) or the death of materiality (maraṇa-rūpa), or the impermanence of materiality (aniccatā-rūpa), that is called the characteristic of materiality (lakkhaṇa-rūpa) as it serves as the cause to know and decide the real nature of conditioned states (saṅkhārā dhammā). Therefore, the meaning of “the original condition is destroyed” is destruction which is widespread all over the lump of mud. Seeing thus, knowledge can find and understand that it is nothing but a collection of material groups of silt with a weight of ten pounds that existed before it was hit, and on which that function depends. Can matter of that size disappear so suddenly and quickly? Such doubt may appear and interfere. If so, we must get rid of it by realising impermanence as decided at the former stage of knowledge by comprehension, which observes, explores, and determines the three characteristics.
The impermanent nature is a decision on the existence of materiality for a blink of an eye. The destruction of the original condition at one blow may take place within a blink of an eye. A mountain may disappear like this lump of mud if it there is a powerful earthquake. The big or small size is the means (payoga). At the moment of conception owing to the glorious power of the Buddhas, there was a quake of ten thousand world-systems with ripples including the supporting element of cohesion. The more we discern the material groups, the more they disappear. They must be comprehended together with their cessation. In the same way, the material groups that seem to move will be perceived analytically with their arising. The discernment of consciousness cannot realise it in this way. It cannot distinguish the arisen materiality from the ceased materiality. Arisen materiality is becoming apparent and ceased materiality disappears. Therefore, the ceased materiality cannot be known. In this matter, a competent Dhamma teacher of wide practical experience is sorely needed. There are many facts to be expressed for realisation that there is not a vestige that is able to resist and exist without destruction in the lump of alluvial mud.
This is the extracted model of knowledge of arising and passing away, but not the meaningless one taken from outside. This is only the apparent function of arising and passing away exposed here.
Like the model, I shall explain the obvious parts of the body. First, the separate parts of the body should be contemplated according to the capacity of knowledge. A part of the head may be hit by the fist to shake the entire head. The movement of the head is like the example of the said model. The widespread movement is simultaneous occurrence of both cessation of materiality and appearance of new materiality. This is the example to express the extreme swiftness of total cessation. If that kind of swiftness cannot be perceived well the contemplation should be carried out part by part according to the capacity of knowledge as follows to discriminate arising and passing away — the change of old materiality and new materiality in the nutrient factors of food — in a single posture for a lengthy period, material qualities of weariness, numbness, heat, and tolerance, in those replaced parts of the body, the gradual increase of new dissimilar material qualities (visabhāga-rūpa) like cumulus clouds, and the cessation of old materiality in place of newly arisen materiality.
In the change of posture causing the movement of the whole body, at every step in walking, the movements of new material groups from the ball of the foot to the top of head are very swift. If knowledge cannot follow that swiftness, contemplation should be carried out at a suitable spot. Determining the right and swift change by knowledge, gradual contemplation in accordance with discernment should be carried out with reasonable thought. There are multifarious and large fields and facts of contemplation.
It means the appearances of apparent new dissimilar, in different locations (visadisa), and distinctive (vikāra) material qualities such as coldness, heat, movement, and vibration at any part of the body are conspicuous. At that part of body there is definitely the cessation of old materiality. If the appearance of new material qualities about the size of a mustard-seed is discerned, there is simultaneous and sudden cessation of old material qualities about the size of a mustard seed there. It is to be understood about the size of a sesame seed, barley-seed, rosary bead and so on. If the appearance of new material qualities all over the body becomes apparent, the cessation of old material qualities takes place in the whole body. Then, knowledge can destroy, breakup, and get rid of the wrong-perception (micchā-saññā) of a person, being, I, another, a man, or a woman as well as craving, conceit, and wrong-view that has grasped and attached to concepts of big and small forms such as my head, my face, my eyes, my ears, my nose, my mouth, my neck, my chest, my belly, my back, my hand, my leg, and so forth. Exertion must be carried on by the contemplation of insight knowledge until there is no vestige to be attached such as my head and so on and so forth after the total cessation of concept of forms (saṇḍāna-paññatti), collective concept (samūha-paññatti) and the concept of the identity of a thing on the grounds of its continuity (santati-paññatti).
It is the knowledge that puts an end to personality-view, the big furnace of hell-fire attached to the heart in the endless cycle of rebirth as it is shot by Sakka’s weapon, like a thunder-bolt.
Constant appearance of the new is apparent, but cessation of the old is difficult to perceive. In impermanent characteristics, cessation is the main factor. Therefore, appearance should be left when it becomes apparent. Leaving appearance when it becomes apparent, contemplating knowledge emphasised on the less obvious cessation, is called knowledge of dissolution (bhaṅga-ñāṇa). The remaining functions should be understood according to the aforementioned meditation on the nutrient factors of food. To a person of weak wisdom, the discernment of knowledge may be difficult to attain by contemplating only ordinary materiality. If so, a section of direct knowledge must be extracted dividing the material qualities into five parts in conformity with the methods analysed in Khandhavagga Saṃyutta.
Efforts should be made until the characteristics of the earth, fire, and air elements become obvious. Eye, ear, and the other sense-bases should be separated as collections of derivative material qualities. In the matter of insight the discernment of appearance and disappearance in the body as impermanent without exception is important. If those functions are discerned all over the body merely by “All conditional things are impermanent (sabbe-saṅkhārā aniccā),” only one word (i.e. saṅkhārā) is enough. A word of Dhamma taught in four kinds of nutriments may be accomplished. A word of feeling or perception may be enough for the task. In the contemplation of appearance and disappearance, if those four great primary material qualities become obvious, the collection of derivative material qualities will be automatically included. There is no separate function of contemplation for derivative material qualities. They are like consciousness and mental properties. If knowledge cannot prevail over all four great primary material qualities, and appearance and disappearance seem resistant, separate contemplation on each of them should be carried out. If extension (paṭhavī) is resisting, emphatic separate exertion should be carried out in extension. If appearance and disappearance are combined as if four elements are not different, the function of dividing them is not necessary. Contemplate the whole as a single materiality. The rest are as before.
Since materiality resembles a heap of foam (pheṇapiṇḍūpamaṃ rūpaṃ), the examples of five aggregates may become obvious according to the said explanations of knowledge by comprehension that observes, explores, and determines the three characteristics. Similarly, the absence of essence may be apparent like the foam. Formerly, the facts have already been explained to perceive feeling like bubbles and perception as a mirage. In the discourse to contemplate the aggregate of mental concomitants to be perceived as the trunk of a plantain tree, volition is taken as the main factor. It consists of three kinds of action: bodily, verbal, and mental; ten types of unwholesome actions such as killing sentient beings and ten wholesome actions producing good resultant such as donation, morality, and meditation. In an action of killing a sentient being, there are companions of activities (kiriyā). They are mental actions such as thoughts of killing another sentient being; verbal actions of malicious speech, and different bodily actions such as going and coming. Analysing multifarious activities of killing, neither permanent, stable, or self essence will be found in either mental, verbal, or bodily actions until the end of an action of killing sentient beings. The four kinds of essence do not arise. Permanent essence in mental actions concerning killing sentient beings cannot be obtained. While thinking so, if the body is touched by an object ceases at once and consciousness and volition shift to that object, it will not be necessary to talk about the attack of great object. Always applying the aforesaid meaning of four types of essence, the rest should be understood. Similarly, in an good action of donation, there are multifarious bodily, verbal, and mental activities. Mention in conformity with killing sentient beings. The remaining good and bad actions to be understood in the same way. In this world, there are thus constant appearance and disappearance of bodily, verbal, and mental activities all day and night.
In each affair, there are many and varied means of activities. Although there are tumultuous riots and uprisings all over this world, there is not any essence. Therefore, the Buddha has declared, “Mental concomitants are like the trunk of a plantain tree (saṅkhārā kadalūpamā),” which becomes big by having many layers without any essence.
There are two kinds of resemblance between consciousness and a magician’s illusion. Consciousness can be likened to both the magician and to his deceptive tricks. In the analysis of the discernment of consciousness and the discernment of knowledge, the former has been explained to be deceitful like the magician. It is to be understood as a wicked magician who cheats all living beings of three planes of existence by showing the inanimate five aggregates as a person, a being, a self, a soul, a man, or a woman. In the illusion that makes a lump of earth appear to be gold, all people see it as gold. It is like the earthen lump thought to be gold. How? The man who gets that lump is very glad because it seems to be gold. However, it is not of any use. In the hands, its gold appearance vanishes, it remains as a lump of earth. Similarly, beings regard their own consciousness to be good, to have essence, etc. However, consciousness has no kind of essence. It is of no use in the function of essence. At the time of attachment to it as a permanent essence, there is incessant cessation. While being grasped as pleasurable, it gives rise to suffering. When being regarded as stable, it changes. Being thought of as self, it behaves contrary to one’s wishes.
Of four kinds of meditation on nutriment and five on the aggregates, the aggregate of mental concomitants is the nutrient of volition. The task of insight meditation is profound and subtle. Proper guidance of a competent teacher is sorely needed. It is the duty of the teacher to give suitable illustrations in contemplation. However, a mere graphic illustration cannot fully accomplish the function of meditation. After full realisation of the clear instruction of the teacher how to contemplate, development should be carried out daily. Entering a quiet place in a forest or a mountain, a monk should contemplate with strenuous energy for months and years. A layman should contemplate at home together with household affairs for months and years. These are the duties of a disciple. The kinds of tranquillity meditation such as mindfulness of respiration (ānāpānasati) are easy to teach and explain. Contemplation to attain a sign (nimitta) is difficult. It cannot be associated with financial affairs at home. It can only be attained in solitude with intense effort. However, insight meditation is the task of knowledge and it can be carried out while the meditator is working in a paddy field or farming. It can be carried out on a journey by bullock-cart or by boat, or in carrying out the duties of buying and selling and associated household financial affairs. At the time of the Buddha, there were few who were accomplished in tranquillity meditation. There were many meditators doing normal household and financial affairs. It is true. There were few lay disciples who succeeded in tranquillity meditation, but the monks who did so were numerous.
After the accomplishment of insight meditation, there were so many Stream-winners among lay people. There would be relatively few among the monks, and relatively more among lay people. So far, the vast majority seemed to be apparent. Why? In this world, there were originally very few monks. There were many lay people in the middle-country of India. Lay Stream-winners were plentiful. That was due to the ability to practice insight meditation along with household duties. Even servants and slaves who possessed spiritual urgency (saṃvega) could practice insight meditation. The number of human Stream-winners could not be compared to celestial Stream-winners. There were a million times more celestial Stream-winners than human Stream-winners.
At the auspicious occasion of the first discourse on Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dhamma (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta), only one ¹⁴ human being was liberated. There were a hundred and eighty million Brahmā who were liberated and countless deities. Mostly the proportions are like this. Therefore, the occasion of the Enlightenment of the Buddha in the world saw the liberation of countless deities and Brahmā. This is why lay people should constantly carry out the work of insight meditation.
While I, the Sayādaw of the Ledi Forest Monastery, was observing my Rains Retreat (vassa) at the top of Shwetaung-oo mountain on the opposite bank of the Chindwin River to the town of Ahlone, I used to instruct all male and female devotees from Monywa and Ahlone in the four kinds of meditation on nutriment and the five kinds of meditation on the aggregates according to the Nidānavagga Saṃyutta and Khandhavagga Saṃyutta together with three profound knowledges during the three months of the Rainy Season to practice constantly throughout life.
I will now explain the meaning of the simile of the blind turtle (kāṇo kacchapopama) that I used to teach occasionally for the development of spiritual urgency (saṃvega). In order to highlight the great suffering of endless existences, the Buddha taught in the Bālapaṇḍita Sutta:–¹⁵
“Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, puriso ekacchiggalaṃ yugaṃ mahāsamudde pakkhipeyya. Tamenaṃ puratthimo vāto pacchimena saṃhareyya, pacchimo vāto puratthimena saṃhareyya, uttaro vāto dakkhiṇena saṃhareyya, dakkhiṇo vāto uttarena saṃhareyya. Tatrāssa kāṇo kacchapo, so vassasatassa vassasahassassa accayena sakiṃ ummujjeyya. Taṃ kiṃ maññatha, bhikkhave, api nu so kāṇo kacchapo amusmiṃ ekacchiggale yuge gīvaṃ paveseyyā”ti.
“No hetaṃ, bhante. Yadi pana, bhante, kadāci karahaci dīghassa addhuno accayenā”ti.
“Khippataraṃ kho so, bhikkhave, kāṇo kacchapo amusmiṃ ekacchiggale yuge gīvaṃ paveseyya, ato dullabhatarāhaṃ, bhikkhave, manussattaṃ vadāmi sakiṃ vinipātagatena bālena.”
“Taṃ kissa hetu? Na hettha, bhikkhave, atthi dhammacariyā samacariyā kusalakiriyā puññakiriyā. Aññamaññakhādikā ettha, bhikkhave, vattati dubbalakhādikā”
Monks (bhikkhave) (and disciples who foresee and always contemplate the dangers of saṃsāra), it is as if (seyyathāpi), a man (puriso), were to throw (pakkhipeyya), the yoke of a carriage (yugaṃ), with one hole (ekacchiggalaṃ), into the middle of the great ocean (mahāsamudde). That yoke (Tamenaṃ), may be carried (saṃhareyya), by the eastern wind (puratthimo vāto) to the west (pacchimena), by the western wind (pacchimo vāto) to the east (puratthimena), by the northern wind (uttaro vāto) to the south (dakkhineṇa), by the southern wind (dakkhiṇo vāto) to the north (uttarena) may be carried (saṃhareyya). In that ocean (Tatrāssa), there is (atthi), a blind (kāṇo) turtle (kacchapo), that blind turtle (so) might emerge poking out its head (ummujjeyya) once (sakiṃ) after (accayena) a hundred years (vassasatassa) or a thousand years (vassasahassassa). Monks! (Bhikkhave)! What do you think? (Taṃ kiṃ maññatha)? will that blind turtle (so kāṇo kacchapo) be able to insert (paveseyya anupi) his neck (gīvaṃ) into that single hole (ekacchiggale) of the aforesaid yoke (amusmiṃ yuge)? thus (iti). Indeed not (No hi etaṃ) venerable sir (Bhante). However (Yadi pana), venerable sir (bhante), at some time or another (kadāci karahaci) after the passing (accayenā) of a long (dīghassa) period (addhuno).
“Sooner indeed (Khippataraṃ kho) monks (bhikkhave), that blind turtle (so kāṇo kacchapo) would insert (paveseyya) its neck (gīvaṃ) into the single hole (ekacchiggale) of the aforesaid (amusmiṃ) yoke (yuge), more rare and difficult (ato dullabhatarāhaṃ), do I declare (vadāmi) for a fool (bālena) gone to the lower realms (vinipātagatena) to be able (sakiṃ) to become a human being (manussattaṃ).”
What is the reason for that? (Taṃ kissa hetu)? Not there (Na hettha), monks (bhikkhave), exists (atthi) the righteous life (dhammacariyā) good conduct (samacariyā) no wholesome deeds (kusalakiriyā) no meritorious activities (puññakiriyā). Eating each other (aññamaññakhādikā) here in the lower realms (ettha), monks (bhikkhave), takes place (vattati) eating the weak (dubbalakhādikā).
The following is the meaning of the simile. The great ocean surrounding the four great continents and twenty thousand small islands is vast.¹⁶ A yoke of a carriage with only a hole is put in the middle of the ocean in the south of the continent of the rose apple (Jambudīpa) or India. That yoke is drifting to and fro in four directions by the wind from four directions. A turtle with both eyes destroyed is at the north of northern continent called Uttarakuru. That turtle is wandering to and fro in four directions of the ocean. It will surface once in a hundred or a thousand years. Monks, both the yoke and the turtle are wandering here and there. Is it possible, for them to meet and for the turtle to put its neck into the hole of the yoke by chance? Thus, the Buddha asked. The monks replied: “Venerable sir, there is hardly any possibility. However, their meeting may be possible after aeons if both turtle and yoke can last for long enough.”
“Monks, the chance of the turtle’s head entering the hole of the yoke is not that difficult. The chances of a person fallen into the lower realms after death to return again to the human realm is thousands of times more difficult. Why is it so difficult? Returning to the human realm is possible for those who die taking the object of good actions such as donation, morality,, and meditation at the approach of death. Those who die having the objects of evil actions fall into woeful existences. In the woeful existences of hell, animals, hungry ghosts (peta), and jealous gods (asura), no one knows anything about donation, morality, and meditation except the Bodhisattas with mature perfections. Among animals, the strong torture the weak throughout their lives and eat each other. Ill-will is constant in them. Their consciousness is always accompanied by greed, hatred, and delusion.
Those in the existences of hungry ghosts and jealous gods are always afflicted by many and varied incessant suffering of hunger, thirst, anxiety, and pain. Days, months, and years pass with continuous grief, lamentation, physical pain, and sorrow. Those of hells have no pleasure even for the short moment of an in-breath or out-breath in the course of one hundred thousand or a million years. No one will dare to look at rapid twisting from side to side and tossing up and down in many and varied perpetual suffering. Thus, they pass their days, months, and years. In each existence, as long as they are alive, the successive bad consciousness is like the current of a river. In this way, the inmates of the woeful existence cannot die taking good objects to return to human existence. Life after life, they are far removed from wholesome deeds, and the burden of the results of evil deeds continuously increase. In those hells of countless aeons, they sink and dive into deeper and deeper hells like the ever-flowing current of a river from a high place to lower lands. Once fallen, countless hungry ghost, jealous gods, and animals leads them to sink deeper life after life. Therefore, the chance of a person once fallen into the lower realms to regain human existence is a hundred or a thousand times more difficult than the example of the blind turtle. This is the meaning of the discourse.
Having achieved the rarest chance of human existence (manussatta dullabha) and the rarest occurrence of a Buddha arising in the world (Buddhuppāda-dullabha), the pious listeners who have reflected on this discourse stage by stage should avoid evil bodily, verbal, and mental actions, which are the causes of falling again into woeful existences, and should try with firm resolve to develop wholesome bodily, verbal, and mental actions, which are the causes of going to fortunate human and celestial existences such as Cātummahārājika, Tāvatiṃsa, and so on after death.
Here, I shall explain the good chances of going to fortunate human and celestial existences in the present era. At the time of the Buddha, there were countless Stream-winners, Once-returners, Non-returners, and Arahants in the sixteen great states of Sāvatthi, Rājagaha and so on in the middle country of India (Majjhimadesa). Of these, there were only a few who attained the final liberation (parinibbāna) as Arahants. Mostly, they were destined for the celestial realms as Stream-winners and Once-returners. Nowadays, they are all over the six celestial realms of Cātummahārājika, Tāvatiṃsa, Yāmā, Tusita, Nimmānaratī, and Paranimmitavasavattī.
Similarly, within about three hundred years of the passing away of the Buddha there were countless liberated disciples of the Buddha in the cities of Rājagaha, Vesāli, and Pāṭaliputta. About 700 years into the Buddha’s dispensation, there were countless liberated disciples of the Buddha among lay people, monks, nuns, and novices of Sri Lanka. Nowadays, those Noble Ones, are inhabiting the fortunate existences of the six celestial realms. They are expecting devoted disciples who come to those existences due to adoration and respect of the religion within 5,000 years of the dispensation. After passing away during the dispensation and arriving at those celestial planes, those persons will be able to associate with former citizens and Buddha’s disciples, who are Noble Ones, former lay people and monks of Sāvatthi, Rājagaha and so on. Then, inspiring and incessant talks about the Noble Qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha like the Venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna by those noble deities who had found, seen, adored, approached and taken refuge personally in the Omniscient Buddha will be heard. They will feel as if they meet and pay homage to the living Buddha themselves. At that time, those who had fulfilled the practice of morality, wisdom, and knowledge will have the chance of hearing the discourses, eight times a month, taught by the Dhamma teaching deities at the celestial assembly hall. Being enlightened to attain the path, its fruition, and nibbāna, they will rejoice in plane by plane as Noble Ones. They will be the companions of those who have been released in this Buddha’s dispensation and become like Visākhā and Anāthapiṇḍika. Thus, the Buddha has taught in the Book of Fours of the Aṅguttaranikāya:–¹⁷
“Tassa tattha sukhino dhammapadā plavanti.
Dandho, bhikkhave, satuppādo;
Atha so satto khippaṃyeva visesagāmī hoti.”
To those (Tassa) [who are endowed with the practice of morality, wisdom, and knowledge and come to celestial realms after death], complete with physical and mental pleasure (sukhino) there (tattha) the teachings studied, taught, and heard in the human realm (dhammapadā) will appear clearly as if awakening from sleep (plavanti). Monks (bhikkhave), recollection (satuppādo) may be slow (dandho); that person (so satto) will attain distinction (visesagāmī) really (attha kho) is (hoti).
Here is the meaning of this teaching. There are laymen and monks endowed with morality, wisdom, and knowledge during the dispensation. After passing away from the human realm, they will be reborn in fortunate celestial realms. Those discourses of Vinaya, Suttanta, and Abhidhamma, the verses and prose taught and studied in the human realm will be recalled as if to a man who just awoke from sleep. At that time, they will penetrate and attain the path, its fruition, and nibbāna either by reflecting on the doctrines they have learnt in the human existence or by hearing the advice, guidance, and admonition of their noble companions or by listening to the discourses taught eight times a month at the celestial assembly hall.
Here, in the human realm, the door to the path, its fruition, and nibbāna is open only for five thousand years of the Buddha’s dispensation. After five thousand years, the doors are closed in the human realm. The Buddha’s teachings and the era of the Noble Ones exist and flourish for more than ten million years in the six celestial realms. The doors to nibbāna remain open there. In the planes of Brahmā, the Buddha Sāsana and the age of noble ones are perpetual and shining and the doors to nibbāna are open for countless aeons. Now in the Buddha Sāsana, those who cannot gain release as human beings can be liberated as deities when they reach celestial planes; as Brahmā in Brahmā planes. This is the meaning of this discourse.
The pious listeners to this discourse shown the ignoble way leading to woeful and ruinous existences and the excellent and noble way to good and celestial existences should have foresight and fear of the woeful and ruinous existences. Once fallen into woeful existences one is remote from donation, morality, and meditation, but accumulates the burdens of impurities caused by misdeeds that lead to deeper and deeper hells for countless existences as animals, hungry ghosts, and jealous gods. There is no chance of hearing about the enlightenment of Metteyya Buddha, the king of men, deities, and Brahmā, as those woeful existences are very remote from human existence, but sinking deeper and deeper stage by stage.
You should try to proceed to nibbāna after meeting again the Noble Ones, who are deities. On this auspicious occasion, you should always keep in mind the noble practice of morality with right-livelihood as the eighth, the threefold refuge of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha and the development of meditation. Memorise and recite the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment to always bear them in mind. Try to develop the noble practices to be reach the deathless, peaceful, and serene mansion called the deathless nibbāna directly from the celestial planes.
End of the admonition.
“Ettavata canadisavanti sombhe hi, parikkhitto Samanto;kutabahandarehi, dumagacchatijalayo.
Thupa guha sopane hi, sobhito yesa pabbato;
Nātidūre parikkhitto, gāmehi-ca samanto;
Vasata tattha racita, esa Āhāra Dīpanī.”
Moreover (ca), by all these words (ettavata), this mountain (esa pabbato) called Shwetaung-oo, is surrounded (parikkhitto), on the East, West, and South (samanta), by the Chindwin River (nadisavanti sombhe hi ca) flowing from the north and then turning to the east and south, the tributary flowing from the north and the natural big lake in which the tributary flows and many and varied peaks, spurs, hummocks branches, mountain-sides, sloping declivity, the very deep valleys and ravine full of various trees and bushes between the two mountains (kutabahakandarehi). This is the place full of seasonal various trees and bushes where all kinds of birds live happily (dumagacchatijalayo).
It is very pleasant with Shwetaung-oo Pagoda for which a festival is held annually (Thupa guha sopane hi), pagodas on mountain peaks and summits, stone-caves and holes in which reside good monks, hermits and laymen. Four stairs with decorated roofs from four directions of Shwetaung-oo pagoda, not very far away (na atidūre), no more than three kilometres, it is surrounded (parikkhitto) by big and small villages (gāmehi ca) of alms resort from all directions of south, west, and north (samanto). (The town of Ahlone with railway station and port and surrounding villages at the east are near, in line of sight, but they are omitted as they are separated by the Sallavati River.)
I, Ledi Sayādaw of Monywa living (vasato) in four postures proportionately in the cave during the day and in the walking hall at night, there (tattha) at the Rains Retreat Monastery on the summit of Shwetaung-oo Mountain, have written (racita) successfully to the end, on the eleventh waxing day of Tzaungmon 1263 B.E ( Thursday, November 21, 1901 A.D.), this new treatise called “The Manual of Nutriment” (Esa Āhāra Dīpanī).
1. » Puttamaṃsa Sutta, Nidānavagga, Saṃyutta 323.
2. Tīraṇa: (p. 304) [from tīreti 2] measurement, judgment, recognition, Nd2 413 (v.l. tir°); Nett 54 (+vipassanā), 82 (~ñāṇa), 191; Vism 162. – tīraṇa is one of the 3 pariññā, viz. t°, pahāna°, ñāta-pariññā. See under pariññā. (PTS Dictionary)
3. S.ii.99, Puttamaṃsūpama Sutta, A Son’s Flesh.
4. S.ii.100, Puttamaṃsūpama Sutta
5. M.i.48, Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta.
6. S.iii.140, Pheṇapiṇḍūpama Sutta.
7. M.i.303. Not found in the Mahāvedalla Sutta as originally stated (ed.)
9. S.iv.174, Āsīvisopama Sutta.
10. S.iv.174, Āsīvisopama Sutta.
14. The original had five here, but of the five ascetics who were present at the Dhammacakka Sutta, only one, Aññāta Koṇḍañña attained Stream-winning at once. The other four had to meditate for a day up to four days to gain Path knowledge (ed.)
15. M.iii.169. I have added the entire passage commented upon below (ed.)
16. The measurements given (from the Commentaries) are absurdly large (ed.)
17. S.ii.184, Sotānugatta Sutta.