Right sila

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From right study and development we find that what we had once thought were our strenghts turn out to be faults:our confident nature is mostly mana(conceit). The calmness we cherish only clinging to quiet; our directness mostly aversion. Also it sometimes happens that the teachers we first thought so wise turn out to be stuck in some place or another. In the Intro. to the Vibhanga(Abhidhamma pitaka) (Pali text society) writes “It is all very well to say ‘I know what is right and what is wrong’The fact is very few people do know when it comes to the precison of mental behaviour essential to correct development toward release. It is this exactitude of behaviour;mental physical and the conseqeunces thereof, that the scriptures elucidate in detail”.

Iggelden carries on “It is all very well to say ‘I know what needs to be done to break the continuity of rebirth and death’. In fact very few people know of even the most elementary reasons for the continuity of process, let alone of breaking it. It is the detailed description, analysis and reasons given for this cyclic process that the scriptures spend so much care in putting before us. It is all very well to say ‘What do I want to know all these
definitions of terms for, it only clutters the mind?’The question is, though, how many people when they seriously ask themselves as to the extent and range of some such apparently simple terms as greed, hatred and ignorance, can know their full and proper implications and manifestations within their own thoughts and actions..This the scriptures are at pains to make clear to even the dullest reader..”Endquote.
Most of us think that we are keeping sila whenever we are not breaking the precepts. However, sila ( a type of cetasika ) – arises only for an extremely short moment and then falls away. When we are not doing anything bad , for example sitting cross-legged watching the breath is there sila? It depends. Moha is not sila, nor is lobha. If we are concentrated on the breath with subtle attachment then there is no sila. When a mosquito comes and we deliberately don’t kill it then those moments of abstaining from killing are sila. But are they kusala with panna or kusala without panna?. If we heard from our teacher that we shouldn’t kill them (and follow simply because we think that the practice depends on it we are doing it without wisdom).

If we abstain because we have heard about the teachings of kamma (for example) then there is a level of wisdom that is higher. There are higher levels again if there has been penetration at the level of satipatthana. Or if there is understanding at the level of sammattha one will see that killing is rooted in dosa, or that it is conditioned by attachment to self.

There are so many ways that sila can be kept. Someone might not kill because they think god will punish them. Or someone might not kill because it is a bad omen. In these examples the condition for abstaining from killing was miccha-ditthi, wrong view. Does it surprise us that miccha-ditthi can condition kusala? This has all been explained in intricate detail in the Patthana – and we can see that it is just like this in daily life. For what reasons do we keep the precepts? We should examine carefully and learn about our motivations – who knows what reasons we will find.

In the visudhimagga (I,18 ) it talks about sila as restraint and one of the ways is restraint by mindfulness. With regard to this factor it says “he guards the eye faculty, enters upon restraint of the eye faculty,” and it repeats for the other doors. And later it says I42 “On seeing a visible object with the eye, he apprehends neither the signs nor the particulars through which , if he left the eye faculty unguarded, evil an unprofitable states of covetnousness and grief might invade him, he enters upon the way of its restraint..”..And it goes on and then repeats for the other doorways. This is sila at the level of satipatthana. When we are lost in the world of concept then the “eyefaculty is unguarded” Note that these quotes all come from the beginning of the section about sila in the visuddhimagga (the Visuddhimagga is divided into three sections -sila, samadhi and panna). It might seem when we see this division and hear that sila is the foundation that first we perfect sila, then samattha and later panna. However, as we see, right at the beginning of sila we have satipatthana explained.

What does it mean “On seeing a visible object with the eye, he apprehends neither the signs nor the particulars through which , if he left the eye faculty unguarded, evil an unprofitable states of covetnousness and grief might invade “. This is our normal life – after seeing immediately concepts are formed up of people and things. It is avijja – no sila. But when there is the satipatthana, even at the very beginning level, there is some understanding of the visible object as merely visible object, colours (no being, no object). And that is sila of a high degree.
The Buddha said that of all evil the worst is miccha-ditthi. Does that surprise? Which is worst, killing your mother and father, causing a schism in the sangha, killing an arahant or miccha-ditthi of the type that denies causality and kamma? According to buddhist teachings the very worst crime which if clung to must lead to immediate rebirth in hell (at death) is this type of miccha-ditthi! And all extreme types of miccha-ditthi are spring from, are rooted in sakkya ditthi- the belief that the five khandas (which are only ephemeral phenomena) are self.

If someone holds only sakkya ditthi – but it has not blossomed into strong miccha-ditthi (he still believes in kamma and result) then he can still do samatha bhavana. But who knows when the one with sakkya ditthi will do some evil. Devadatta had full mastery of mundane jhanas – an impressive accomplishment- but because of sakkya ditthi, self view, he later commited extreme akusala. Sakkya ditthi causes us enormous conflict in life . We think “sons have I, wealth have I” and thus when sons and wealth perish we suffer greatly. In truth there is no I, – what to speak of sons and wealth ” (I paraphrase a sutta here.) In short, sila and samatha can take us to the highest realms of existence but it is ditthi, view, that keeps us in samsara. We can accomplish sila and samatha even outside a Buddha’s dispensation but we can only develop wisdom that breaks up the causes for samsara by hearing, considering and applying the deepteachings to do with thevoid, anatta, the pancakhanda, dhatus, ayatanas, paticcusamupada, 24 paccaya.

Robert

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It is an important question. People think when reading texts, including the Visuddhimagga, that there is a rule: first sila, then samadhi, then panna. But here it is a method of teaching, desana naya. Buddhaghosa made the tripartition to teach in a systematic way. But when we look carefully, we see: under sila are many degrees of sila, there is also the hihest sila, the eradication of defilements by magga-citta. When we see sutta texts we have to carefully consider under what heading they teach: when it is the eightfold Path, there are sila and samadhi and panna altogether. Or it may be lokuttara magga. When we consider sila: if there is awareness of a dhamma appearing through one of the six doorways, there is already sila, no lobha, dosa or moha. Through panna sila becomes fulfilled. When there is understanding of a dhamma, there is also kusala samadhi with the kusala citta, there is a degree of calm. It is all very detailed and subtle, and we have to look very carefully at the texts from all angles. We read about adhi- sila, adhi-citta, adhi-panna: higher sila, citta (concentration) and panna. These arise together when there is mindfulness and understanding of a reality. But there is no adhi, higher, if it is not accompanied by vipassana panna. We read about sila visuddhi, but there is no visuddhi without vipassana panna.

The conditions for the arising of right mindfulness and right understanding are: listening to the dhamma and considering it in one’s own life. It is not so that we first have to keep the precepts perfectly, and anyway, only the sotapanna can. No rule that everybody should develop concentration. People who have accumulations for jhana can develop it and then they can have jhana as base for vipassana, being aware also of jhanacitta. But, there is no rule that we should do certain things before we can begin to be aware of dhammas appearing in our life at this moment. We have to check: did the Buddha set any rule about the development of right understanding? Any time is the time for the development of right understanding, we should not delay this. I am glad you brought up this important point, and a great deal more could be said about it. I found the Pali commentary to the text you quoted, and I will bring this up later on. Ich brauche ein wenig mehr Zeit dieses zu studieren.

Nina.
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I think some of my posts, which stress on anatta and uncontrollability, might seem to minimize the importance of other aspects of the Buddha’s teaching, such as sila and samadhi. Nina van gorkom writes in “the commentary to the Cariyapittaka [1]: Thus, esteeming virtue as the foundation for all achievements, as the soil for the origination of all the Buddha-qualities, the beginning, footing, head and chief of all the dhammas issuing in Buddhahood” Endquote. It is that important.

However, I know that in my early years of learning Dhamma I misunderstood about sila. I worked hard at it but with an idea that “I” was keeping sila. So on this list I like to point out what I believe are some refined aspects of sila and wisdom.

Silabata upadana – clinging to sila and ritual – is a an obstacle on the path. When we have this aspect of wrong view it feels right because we change our life. Now we have rules to follow and special difficult practices to try and master. Our life has changed and we can see the difference it makes- we are calmer and think more clearly. We take these things as signposts that wisdom is also growing but this may not be so.
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James: Panna is a consequence of satipatthana, not a prerequisite.
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I think this is partially right. The path of the development of satipatthana needs wisdom from the outset but as satipatthana develops so too do panna, samadhi , saddha (confidence) and other wholesome factors become gradually more powerful. It is a virtuos circle. I think we shouldn’t underestimate , though, how profound it is. Some practices may look like satipatthana but might be something else. Here is a brief except from the satipatthana sutta commentary: “”The bhikkhu when experiencing a bodily or mental pleasant feeling knows, ‘I experience a pleasant feeling.’ Certainly, while they experience a pleasant feeling, in sucking the breast and on similar occasions, even infants lying on their backs know that they experience pleasure. But this meditator’s knowledge is different. Knowledge of pleasure possessed by infants lying on their backs and other similar kinds of knowledge of pleasure do not cast out the belief in a being, do not root out the perception of a being, do not become a subject of meditation and do not become the cultivation of the Arousing of Mindfulness. But the knowledge of this bhikkhu casts out the belief in a being, uproots the perception of a being, is a subject of meditation and is the cultivation of the Arousing of Mindfulness. Indeed, the knowledge meant here is concerned with experience that is wisely understood through inquiry.

Who feels? No being or person. Whose is the feeling? Not of a being or person. Owing to what is there the feeling? Feeling can arise with (certain) things — forms, sounds, smells and so forth — as objects. That bhikkhu knows, therefore, that there is a mere experiencing of feeling after the objectifying of a particular pleasurable or painful physical basis or of one of indifference. (There is no ego that experiences) because there is no doer or agent [kattu] besides a bare process [dhamma]. The word “bare” indicates that the process is impersonal.ENDQUOTE””
http://www.abhidhamm…yFeelings.htm#*

So it takes some understanding to begin satipatthana. In the visuddhimagga (I,18 ) In the section on sila it talks about sila as restraint and one of the ways is restraint by mindfulness. With regard to this factor it says “he guards the eye faculty, enters upon restraint of the eye faculty,” and it repeats for the other doors. And later it says I42 “On seeing a visible object with the eye, he apprehends neither the signs nor the particulars through which , if he left the eye faculty unguarded, evil an unprofitable states of covetnousness and grief might invade him, he enters upon the way of its restraint..”..And it goes on and then repeats for the other doorways. of concept then the “eyefaculty is unguarded” What does it mean “On seeing a visible object with the eye, he apprehends neither the signs nor the particulars through which , if he left the eye faculty unguarded, evil an unprofitable states of covetnousness and grief might invade “.? This is our normal life – after seeing immediately concepts are formed up of people and things. It is avijja(ignorance) – no sila. But when there is the satipatthana, even at the very beginning level, there is some understanding of the visible object as merely visible object, colours (no being, no object). And that is sila of a high degree. It might seem when we see this division and hear that sila is the foundation that first we perfect sila, then samatha and later panna. However, as we see, right at the beginning of the se ction on sila we have satipatthana explained. And satipatthana comes with panna, with sila, and with samadhi – for those moments when there is correct insight.

RobertK
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Most of us think that we are keeping sila whenever we are not breaking the precepts. However, sila ( a type of cetasika ) – arises only for an extremely short moment and then falls away. When we are not doing anything bad , for example sitting cross-legged watching the breath is there sila? It depends. Moha is not sila, nor is lobha. If we are concentrated on the breath with subtle attachment then there is no sila. When a mosquito comes and we deliberately don’t kill it then those moments of abstaining from killing are sila. But are they kusala with panna or kusala without panna?. If we heard from our teacher that we shouldn’t kill them (and follow simply because we think that the practice depends on it we are doing it without wisdom).

Robert, this can be very tricky. I think Ajahn elucidated it well in her book The Conditionality of Life. She writes:

“There are four factors which condition the dhammas they arise together with by way of conascent-predominance-condition, and these are:

* chanda (desire-to-do)
* viriya (energy or effort)
* citta
* vima.msa (investigation of Dhamma, paññā cetasika)

…Whenever we wish to accomplish a task, one of these four factors can be the leader, the predominance-condition for the realities they arise together with and also for the rūpa which is produced at that moment by citta. Only one of these four factors at a time can be predominant. For example, when chanda is foremost, the other three factors cannot be predominant at the same time. Chanda, viriya and citta can be predominant in the accomplishment of an enterprise or task both in a wholesome way and in an unwholesome way, whereas vima.msa, investigation of Dhamma, which is paññā, a sobhana cetasika, can only be predominant in a wholesome way.

…When one undertakes a work of art, such as painting, or when one applies oneself to music, one is bound to do so with lobha-mūla-citta (citta rooted in attachment). Lobha is attached to the object it experiences, but it cannot accomplish anything, it is not a predominant factor. Chanda, zeal or wish-to-do, which accompanies lobha-mūla-citta can be a predominant factor in the accomplishment of one’s undertakings, it conditions the citta and the other cetasikas it accompanies by way of conascent-predominance.

…When we are generous and like to give something away, chanda, which is kusala in this case, may be predominant. The kusala citta is also accompanied by alobha, non-attachment, and adosa, non-aversion or kindness, but these wholesome roots cannot be predominant in the accomplishment of a generous deed. It is chanda which can be predominant in the accomplishment of the generous deed, for example, when one chooses the gift and hands it to someone else…

Viriya can be a predominant factor in the accomplishment of our tasks. Preparing food may be part of our daily chores, and sometimes, when we like to do this, chanda may be predominant. At other times we may find it an effort but we may still want to cook. Then we may prepare food with viriya as predominant factor. At such moments there is likely to be lobha, but viriya is foremost in the accomplishment of cooking.”
xxx

How often are chanda and viriya, energy, predominant? Very often. As we see from the above they can be with kusala or akusala citta. How often when we wish to refrain from some action such as having dosa is there akusala chanda? Very often. Is this the path? It cannot be the path. Kusala is the path as all kusala can help to condition wisdom which penetrates and this kusala accumulates. How subtle is this path. We often think it is good to “fight back” against our defilements. We think this is wholesome, but it is just attachment. Wisdom does not develop that way. That path only helps accumulate more unwholesomeness and does not see things for what they really are. When proper wisdom is developed there is true kusala, and true sila, just like the earliest disciples of the Buddha who did not need to be told any rule because their accumulations were such that strong lobha and dosa that would cause them to commit strong unwholesome actions did not arise in them. They had wisdom on the level of sila, not unwholesome striving.

Kevin
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MAHĀVIYŪHA SUTTA wrote:
Those who think morality is supreme say purity is by self-restraint;
Having taken upon themselves an observance they are dedicated to it.
“Let us train ourselves right here and now, and then there would be purity”—
Claiming to be adepts, they are brought up to further existence.

If he is fallen away from his morality and observances
He is agitated, having failed in his action.
He longs for and aspires to pure freedom from wrong
Like one who has lost his caravan and is far from home.
I guess it is important to point out, that Sila is somehow the first, but lasting till the end, object of mindfulness and a very simple item for right effort with actually much impact. Whether layman or Bhikkhu, if this is not the primary orientation all other effort is simply useless.
How ever, maybe not so much in line with the flow of this topic but in regard of the OP – title, there was once a question to Ananda which came to my mind (note, its often used as a excuse as well, so it will be just beneficial for those serious on the lane):

Quote
Silabbata Sutta: Precept & Practice

Then Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, “Ananda, every precept & practice, every life, every holy life that is followed as of essential worth: is every one of them fruitful?”
“Lord, that is not [to be answered] with a categorical answer.”

“In that case, Ananda, give an analytical answer.”

“When — by following a life of precept & practice, a life, a holy life that is followed as of essential worth — one’s unskillful mental qualities increase while one’s skillful mental qualities decline: that sort of precept & practice, life, holy life that is followed as of essential worth is fruitless. But when — by following a life of precept & practice, a life, a holy life that is followed as of essential worth — one’s unskillful mental qualities decline while one’s skillful mental qualities increase: that sort of precept & practice, life, holy life that is followed as of essential worth is fruitful.”
That is what Ven. Ananda said, and the Teacher approved. Then Ven. Ananda, [realizing,] “The Teacher approves of me,” got up from his seat and, having bowed down to the Blessed One and circumambulating him, left.

Then not long after Ven. Ananda had left, the Blessed One said to the monks, “Monks, Ananda is still in training, but it would not be easy to find his equal in discernment.”

See also: DN 16; AN 3.72; AN 4.42; AN 4.192.

Edited by Johann (Hanzze),

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