Eight Path Factors


At Dhammastudygroup, Yahoo Group, jonoabb wrote:

Hi Alex and Rob E

— In dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com, “truth_aerator” wrote:
> Hello Jon, all,
> …
> If one needs to attain N8P for stream entry, then one needs to attain 4 jhanas
which form 8th part of N8P called samma-samadhi.
> No need to mention Jhanas because it is assumed whenever N8P is mentioned.
> ===============

J: It’s a question of what the Noble Eightfold Path (NEP) is.

Some people see the individual factors of the NEP as being 8 separate (and
unrelated) sets of instructions, or things to be done. The description of each
factor is read as a stand-alone activity or thing to be done (e.g., in the case
of samma-samadhi, the attainment of one of the 4 mundane jhanas). It is not
clear to me in what sense the 8 factors so understood are regarded as a `path’.

To my understanding, the NEP is, as the name suggests, a path comprising 8
factors (Pali: atthanga), that is to say, a path that exists when all 8 factors
are present. This simultaneous arising of the 8 factors occurs at the moment of
supramundane path consciousness, the consciousness that occurs at each of the 4
stages of enlightenment.

As regards samma-samadhi, the traditional Theravada view as set out in the Pali
Canon is summarised in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of the Abhidhammattha Sangaha
and commentaries (CMA) as follows:

All meditators reach the supramundane paths and fruits through the development
of wisdom (pa~n~naa) – insight into the three characteristics of impermanence,
suffering, and non-self. However, they differ among themselves in the degree of
their development of concentration (samaadhi).

– Those who develop insight without a basis of jhaana are called practitioners
of bare insight (sukkhavipassaka). When they reach the path and fruit, their
path and fruition cittas occur at a level corresponding to the first jhaana.

– Those who develop insight on the basis of jhaana attain a path and fruit which
corresponds to the level of jhaana they had attained before reaching the path.

For bare insight meditator and jhaana meditator alike, all path and fruition
cittas are considered types of jhaana consciousness. They are so considered
because they occur in the mode of closely contemplating their object with full
absorption, like the mundane jhaanas, and because they possess the jhaana
factors with an intensity corresponding to their counterparts in the mundane

(From the Guide to paras 30 and 31 of Ch. VII of CMA (translation of the
Abhidhammattha Sangaha)).

J: Bhikkhu Bodhi’s summary from the commentaries goes on to discuss how the
concentration that accompanies a moment of path consciousness differs from the
concentration of mundane jhana.

The supramundane jhaanas of the paths and fruits differ from the mundane jhaanas
in several important respects.

– First, whereas the mundane jhaanas take as their object some concept, such as
the sign of the kasina, the supramundane jhaanas take as their object Nibbaana,
the unconditioned reality.

– Second, whereas the mundane jhaanas merely suppress the defilements while
leaving their underlying seeds intact, the supramundane jhaanas of the path
eradicate defilements so that they can never again arise.

– Third, while the mundane jhaanas lead to rebirth in the fine-material world
and thus sustain existence in the round of rebirths, the jhaanas of the path cut
off the fetters binding one to the cycle and thus issue in liberation from the
round of birth and death.

– Finally, whereas the role of wisdom in the mundane jhaanas is subordinate to
that of concentration, in the supramundane jhaanas wisdom and concentration are
well balanced, with concentration fixing the mind on the unconditioned element
and wisdom fathoming the deep significance of the Four Noble Truths.

Note that, according to this, “mundane jhaanas lead to rebirth in the
fine-material world and thus sustain existence in the round of rebirths”.




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