Introduction to the Buddhist Scriptures
By Nina van Gorkom
General Aspects of Buddhism
Wrong View and Right View
The Buddha, after his enlightenment, preached to a group of five brahmins a discourse about the four noble Truths. These brahmins became his first five disciples. We read in the "Book of Discipline" (Vinaya IV, Mahavagga, 9-14) that one of the brahmins, Kondanna, attained the first stage of enlightenment, the stage of the sotapanna, and that he asked for ordination under the Lord. The Buddha continued to instruct the other disciples with dhamma-talk and then also Vappa and Bhaddiya attained the first stage of enlightenment and asked for ordination. As to the two other disciples, Mahanama and Assaji, after they received more instruction with dhamma-talk, they also attained the stage of the sotapanna and asked for ordination. We then read that the Buddha preached another discourse to the group of five monks, the "Discourse on the Characteristic of Non-self", in which he explained that the five khandhas are non-self:
"Body, monks, is not self. Now, were this body self, monks, this body would not tend to sickness, and one might get the chance of saying in regard to body, 'Let body become thus for me, let body not become thus for me.' But inasmuch, monks, as body is not self, therefore body tends to sickness, and one does not get the chance of saying in regard to body, 'Let body become thus for me, let body not become thus for me.'
Feeling is not self.... Perception (sanna) is not self.... the 'habitual tendencies' (sankharakkhandha) are not self....
Consciousness is not self.... Inasmuch, monks, as consciousness is not self, therefore consciousness tends to sickness, and one does not get the chance to say in regard to consciousness, 'Let consciousness become such for me, let consciousness not become thus for me.'
What do you think about this, monks? Is body (rupa) permanent or impermanent?"
"But is that which is impermanent painful (dukkha) or pleasurable?"
"But is it fit to consider that which is impermanent, dukkha, of a nature to change, as 'This is mine, this am I, this is my self'?"
"It is not, Lord."
We then read that the Buddha asked the same concerning the other four khandhas. The Buddha continued:
"Wherefore, monks, whatever is rupa , past, future, present, or internal or external, or gross or subtle, or low or excellent, whether it is far or near-- all rupa should, by means of right understanding, be seen, as it really is, thus: This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self..."
We then read that the Buddha said the same about the other four khandhas. After that the Buddha said:
"Seeing in this way, monks, the instructed disciple of the ariyans disregards body and he disregards feeling and he disregards perception and he disregards the habitual tendencies and he disregards consciousness; disregarding he is dispassionate; through dispassion he is freed; in freedom the knowledge comes to be: 'I am freed, and he knows: Destroyed is birth, lived is the Brahma-faring, done is what was to be done, there is no more of being such or such.' "
Thus spoke the Lord; delighted, the group of five monks rejoiced in what the Lord had said. Moreover, while this discourse was being uttered, the minds of the group of five monks were freed from the cankers without grasping. At that time there were six perfected ones in the world.
While the five monks were listening they were mindful and they developed right understanding of all realities appearing through the six doors. When they were hearing Dhamma they clearly understood hearing as an element which experiences sound, which is non-self. They clearly understood sound as only a kind of rupa which can be heard. They penetrated the truth of non-self to such degree that they attained arahatship. They could do so after they had listened only for a short time because they had accumulated wisdom already during innumerable past lives. Ordinary people need to listen, to study and to consider the true nature of nama and rupa for a long time. Ignorance and wrong view are deeply accumulated and even when there is intellectual understanding of realities, the wrong view of self cannot be eradicated.
If we do not understand the five khandhas as they are, we are bound to take them for self. We read in the scriptures about "personality belief", in Pali: sakkaya ditthi. We read, for example in the "Middle Length Sayings" (I, 44, Lesser Discourse of the Miscellany) that the lay follower Visakha asked the nun Dhammadinna different questions on Dhamma and one of these was how there comes to be personality belief. Dhammadinna answered:
In this case, friend Visakha, an uninstructed average person, taking no count of the pure ones, not skilled in the dhamma of the pure ones, untrained in the dhamma of the pure ones, taking no count of the true men, not skilled in the dhamma of the true men , untrained in the dhamma of the true men, regards rupa as self or self as having rupa or rupa as in self or self as in rupa....
The same is said with regard to the other khandhas. When there is personality belief someone takes each of the five khandhas for self, or he may see "self" as the owner of the khandhas, or as their container, or as contained within them. The four kinds of wrong interpretation of reality which were just mentioned pertain to each of the five khandhas and thus there are twenty kinds of personality belief .
There are many kinds of wrong view with regard to the five khandhas. When someone clings to the belief in a self who will last forever, to the eternity view, he fails to see that what we take for self are only nama and rupa which fall away after they have arisen. When someone clings to the belief in a self who will be annihilated after death, to the annihilation view, he fails to see that even now there are conditions for the arising of nama and rupa and that thus also after death there will be conditions for their arising. The dying-consciousness is succeeded immediately by the rebirth-consciousness of the next life.
In the "Discourse on the Characteristic of Non-Self" quoted above, we read that the Buddha said to the monks: "But is it fit to consider that which is impermanent, dukkha, of a nature to change, as 'This is mine, this am I, this is my self'?" This phrase, often recurring in the scriptures, is deep in meaning. "This is mine" implies craving which appropriates things as the property of self. "This am I" implies conceit, the tendency to compare oneself with others. "This is myself" is a formulation of the personality view, the belief in an abiding self, subsequently identified with the five khandhas. We learn from the Abhidhamma that craving may arise with wrong view or without it. We may, for example, think of "my arms and legs" with attachment, without there necessarily being wrong view. We should know that there is not wrong view all the time when we think of ourselves. Conceit accompanies lobha-mulacitta, citta rooted in attachment. At the moment of conceit there cannot be wrong view at the same time. The ariyans who are not arahats may still have conceit; they have eradicated wrong view but they still may compare themselves with others.
Only right understanding of all realities appearing in daily life can eradicate the wrong view of self. When understanding has not been developed there is clinging to an idea of "I see" or "I hear". Realities such as seeing or hearing arise because of their appropriate conditions, they do not belong to anyone. We cannot do anything about them, they are beyond control.
We read in the "Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant's Footprint" (Middle Length Sayings I, 28) that Sariputta gave a Dhamma discourse to the monks. He spoke about the four noble Truths and stated that the five khandhas are dukkha. He explained that the four Great Elements are impermanent and dukkha. Then he spoke about the conditions for the arising of seeing. We read that Sariputta said:
Your reverences, just as a space that is enclosed by stakes and creepers and grass and clay is known as a dwelling, so a space that is enclosed by bones and sinews and flesh and skin is known as a material shape. If, your reverences, the eye that is internal is intact but external rupa does not come within its range and there is no appropriate impact, then there is no appearance of the appropriate class of consciousness. But when, your reverences, the eye that is internal is intact and external rupa comes within its range and there is the appropriate impact, then there is thus an appearance of the appropriate class of consciousness....
When the rupa which is visible object impinges on the rupa which is eyesense there are conditions for seeing-consciousness. Visible object arises and falls away in a group of rupas, the four Great Elements and other rupas, but only the rupa which is visible object can contact the eyesense and can then be seen. Seeing which experiences visible object seems to last for a while, but in reality it falls away immediately. Because of the cetasika sanna, perception or remembrance, we remember concepts of people and things and since we keep on thinking about them, the falling away of seeing is bound to be covered up by thinking. When there is wrong view one takes visible object for a person or a thing. Through right understanding visible object can be known as visible object, a kind of rupa, and seeing can be known as seeing, a type of nama. Seeing is vipakacitta, the result of kamma. Seeing which arises because of conditions is beyond control, non-self.
Further on in the above quoted sutta we read that Sariputta explained in the same way the conditions for the experiences through the ear and the other doorways. We cannot control which kamma produces which vipaka, kamma is anatta and vipaka is anatta. We are inclined to think of situations, for example, of losing possessions or of meeting particular people, as vipaka. A situation is not an ultimate reality. Each situation can be analysed into different sense impressions, which are vipakacittas, and moments of thinking which are not vipaka but kusala cittas or akusala cittas. When sitting in a car, we may be afraid of an accident, but if there is right understanding of kamma and vipaka, there will be less fear. When it is the appropriate moment for kamma to produce vipaka, vipakacitta will arise. If we do not go by car we may receive unpleasant sense impressions somewhere else. The sotapanna has realized all stages of insight before he attained enlightenment. As explained before, the first stage is clearly knowing the difference between the characteristic of nama and the characteristic of rupa. The second stage is understanding nama and rupa as conditioned realities. This is not thinking of the conditions for the nama and rupa which appear, it is the understanding which is the result of direct awareness of nama and rupa as they appear in daily life. When we see, we may, for example, think, "This is vipaka", but thinking is not the keen understanding which arises when there is awareness of seeing at the present moment.
If there is no clear understanding of kamma and vipaka as anatta there is bound to be fear of losing possessions or dear people. Fear is conditioned by attachment to the pleasant feeling we derive from our possessions or from the company of dear people. Fear of death stems from anxiety about what will happen to the "self" after death, thus anxiety about what does not exist.
We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Fours, Ch XIX, Fourth Fifty, 4, Fearless) that the brahmin Janussoni said to the Buddha that anyone who is subject to death has fear at the thought to death. The Buddha explained that someone may be afraid, but that there are also people who have no fear of death. We read that the Buddha said:
"In this case, brahmin, a certain one is not freed from passions, not freed from lusts, not freed from desire, affection, from thirst and fever, not freed from craving. Then a grievous sickness afflicts such a one. Thus afflicted by grievous sickness it occurs to him: Alas! the passions that I love will leave me, or I shall leave the passions that I love. Thereupon he grieves and wails, laments and beats the breast and falls into utter bewilderment. This one, brahmin, being subject to death, is afraid, he falls a-trembling at the thought of death.
Again, brahmin, here a certain one who regards body is not freed from lusts... is not freed from craving. Then a grievous sickness afflicts him. Thus afflicted it occurs to him: Alas! the body that I love will leave me, or I shall leave the body that I love. Thereupon he grieves... and falls into utter bewilderment. This one, brahmin, being subject to death, is afraid, he falls a-trembling at the thought of death.
Yet again, brahmin, here a certain one has done no lovely deed, has done no profitable deed, has given no shelter to the timid; he has done evil, cruel, wrongful deeds. Then a grievous sickness afflicts such a one. Thus afflicted by grievous sickness it occurs to him: Alas! I have done no lovely deed, I have done no profitable deed, I have given no shelter to the timid. I have done evil, cruel, wrongful deeds. To the doom of those who do such deeds hereafter I am going. Thereupon he grieves ... and falls into utter bewilderment. This one, brahmin, being subject to death is afraid, he falls a-trembling at the thought of death.
Yet again, brahmin, here a certain one is doubtful, full of perplexity, has come to no conclusion as to true dhamma. He grieves and wails, laments and beats the breast and falls into utter bewilderment. This one also, being subject to death, is afraid, he falls a-trembling at the thought of death....
Thus these four, being subject to death, are afraid...."
The Buddha then explained that the person who is freed from desire, who does not cling to the body, who has done wholesome deeds and who is free from doubt with regard to the Dhamma is not afraid at the thought of death. We read about the person who is freed from doubt:
"Once more, brahmin, here a certain one is not doubtful, is not full of perplexity, has come to a conclusion as to true dhamma. Then a grievous sickness afflicts him. Thus afflicted by grievous sickness it occurs to him: Surely I have no doubt, I have no worry, I have come to a conclusion as to true dhamma. Thus he grieves not, wails not, nor beats the breast, nor falls into utter bewilderment thereat.
This one, brahmin, though subject to death, fears not, falls not a-trembling at the thought of death. So these are the four who fear not."
"It is wonderful, worthy Gotama! It is marvellous, worthy Gotama! May the worthy Gotama accept me as one who has gone to him for refuge from this day forth so long as life may last."
We read that the person who is free from doubt has no fear of death. The person who has attained the first stage of enlightenment, the sotapanna, has eradicated doubt with regard to the Dhamma. He has no doubt as to the four noble Truths, he has no doubt as to the truth that all realities are anatta. Doubt can be eliminated by the study of the Dhamma, by discussions about it, by considering the Dhamma and above all by mindfulness of nama and rupa. Right understanding has to be developed during one's activities, no matter one is cleaning one's house, washing one's cloths, preparing food or eating it. Some people believe that one's daily activities are a hindrance to the development of right understanding but there is no need to delay its development. If someone knows that paramattha dhammas, nama and rupa, are the objects of mindfulness and right understanding, there are conditions for the arising of mindfulness at any time.
We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Sixes, Ch II, 9, Mindfulness of Death) that the Buddha said to the monks that mindfulness of death is very fruitful, that it leads to the deathless, which is nibbana. Different monks spoke about the way they were mindful of death. We read:
"Herein, lord, such is my thought: Were I to live but one day and night, and I were to ponder over the word of the Exalted One , much would be done by me-- thus, lord, I make mindfulness of death become".
And another said: "I too, lord, make mindfulness become."
"How so, monk?"
"Herein, lord, such is my thought: Were I to live for a day only, and I were to ponder over the word of the Exalted One, much would be done by me...."
And another said: "Such is my thought: Were I to live long enough to eat one alms-meal..." And another: "... to munch and swallow four or five morsels..." And another: "... to munch and swallow only one morsel..."
And another said: "I too, lord, make mindfulness of death become."
"How so, monk?"
"Lord, such is my thought: Were I to live long enough to breathe in after breathing out, or to breathe out after breathing in, and I were to ponder over the word of the Exalted One, much would be done by me-- thus, lord, I make mindfulness of death become."
And when he had thus spoken, the Exalted Onbe said to the monks:
"Monks, the monk who makes mindfulness of death become thus: 'Were I to live but one day and night and I were to ponder over the word of the Exalted One ...' or he who thinks thus: 'Were I to live for a day only ...' or ' long enough to eat one almsmeal...' or "long enough to munch and swallow four or five morsels ..., and I were to ponder over the word of the Exalted One, much would be done by me'- those monks are said to live indolently; slackly they make mindfulness of death become for the destruction of the cankers.
But the monk who makes mindfulness of death become thus: 'Were I to live long enough to munch and swallow one morsel...'; and he who thinks thus: 'Were I to live long enough to breathe in after breathing out, or to breathe out after breathing in, and I were to ponder over the word of the Exalted One, much would be done by me'- those monks are said to live earnestly; keenly they make mindfulness become for the destruction of the cankers.
Wherefore, monks, train yourselves thus:
We will live earnestly; keenly will we make mindfulness of death become for the destruction of the cankers. Train yourselves thus, monks."
Death can come at any moment . Only the monk who realizes that the time to develop right understanding is short, even as short as it takes to eat one morsel of food, or as short as it takes to breathe in or to breathe out, and that he therefore should not waste his time, is diligent. The Buddha said, "Train yourselves thus". If someone reads these words with wrong understanding he will believe that there is a self who can control the arising of mindfulness. The Buddha explained time and again that all realities are non-self and thus also mindfulness and understanding. He did not have to repeat this truth each time he gave a discourse. The monks had no misunderstanding about the Buddha's words. They were a condition for them to be mindful of whatever reality appeared.
This sutta can remind us to develop right understanding of realities even when we are eating. What we call morsel of food consists of the four Great Elements and other rupas. Through touch the rupas which are hardness, softness, heat or cold may appear. They arise because of conditions and appear just for a moment. They are ultimate realities which can be object of mindfulness without having to name them or to think about them. Flavour is another kind of rupa which is experienced through the tongue by the citta which tastes. The rupa which is flavour is different from the nama which experiences it. Tasting is a type of vipakacitta experiencing an object through the tongue. At that moment there is no like or dislike. When the food we are eating is delicious, lobha, attachment, is likely to arise, and when the food is unappetizing anger, dosa, may arise. Dosa may appear in angry speech. Feeling arises at each moment, it can be pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent. Feeling is a type of nama, non-self, and if we learn to be aware of it we will be less inclined to cling to an idea of "I feel". The cetasika which is remembrance, sanna, arises each moment, but usually we are forgetful of it. Because of sanna we recognize what food we are eating, we remember how to use knife, fork and spoon. No matter what we are doing there are five khandhas arising and falling away. The classification of conditioned realities as five khandhas, one rupakkhandha and four nama-kkhandhas, can remind us not to be forgetful of what appears. There are the khandha of feeling and the khandha of remembrance all the time, but if we are never aware of them we will continue to take them for self. Apart from feeling and sanna, there are other cetasikas, classified as the khandha of "mental formations", sankharakkhandha. Good qualities and bad qualities are included in sankharakkhandha. Awareness of nama and rupa is not trying to find out which khandha a particular reality is. The classification of conditioned realities as one rupa-kkhandha and four nama-kkhandhas can remind us of the difference between nama and rupa. All realities which are rupakkhandha do not experience anything, they have no sensitivity, whereas the realities which are classified as the four nama-kkhandhas are realities which experience something. Feeling is an experience, sanna is another experience, cetasikas such as lobha or dosa, classified as sankharakkhandha, are experiences, and cittas are experiences. In order to realize nama and rupa which appear at this moment as anatta, we have to understand first of all the difference between the reality which does not experience anything and the reality which is an experience. If we do not distinguish between the characteristics of nama and rupa, we will continue to cling to a self. The clinging to a self is the cause of a great deal of worry and disturbance. When we suffer from painful feeling or sickness we are inclined to think of a self who suffers. In reality there are only the five khandhas which arise just for a moment and fall away. We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (III, Khandha-vagga, Kindred Sayings on Elements, First Fifty, Ch 5, 43, An Island to Oneself ) that the Buddha said:
Monks, be islands unto yourselves, be your own refuge, having no other; let the Dhamma be an island and a refuge to you, having no other. Those who are islands unto themselves... should investigate to the very heart of things: "What is the source of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair? How do they arise?"
Here, monks, the uninstructed worldling, with no regard for the Noble Ones... regards body as the self, the self as having body, body as being in the self, or the self as being in the body. Change occurs in this man's body, and it becomes different. On account of this change and difference, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair arise.
(Similarly with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, consciousness.)
But seeing the body's impermanence, its changeability, its waning, its ceasing, he says, "formerly as now, all bodies were impermanent and unsatisfactory, and subject to change." Thus, seeing this as it really is, with perfect insight, he abandons all sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. He is not worried at their abandonment, but unworriedly lives at ease, and thus living at ease he is said to be "assuredly delivered".
(Similarly with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, consciousness.)
The Daily Life of the Monk
We read in the Commentary of the "Theragatha" (Psalms of the Brethren) that Jenta was wondering whether he would leave the world. After he heard the Buddha preach he entered the order and attained arahatship. We read in Canto CXI, Jenta, the following verse uttered by him :
Hard is the life without the world, and hard
In truth to bear house life. Deep is the Dhamma;
Hard too is wealth to win. Thus difficult
The choice between the life of monk or layman .
I ought to bear unceasingly in mind
(And see in everything) impermanence.
The life of laymen is difficult, they have to exert themselves to earn their living. The monk's life is also difficult, he is dependant on laymen for the obtainment of the four requisites of robes, food, dwelling and medicines. No matter whether someone is monk or layman, he experiences objects through the six doors, and on account of these objects attachment tends to arise. If one does not develop satipatthana, defilements will increase evermore and thus life will become more and more difficult. Jenta did not merely think, "Everything is impermanent". Thinking about impermanence is not the same as the penetration of the characteristic of impermanence, of the arising and falling away of each reality which appears. The Dhamma is subtle and deep. Although the Dhamma is near, we do not understand it: we do not understand seeing which appears now or hearing which appears now; they arise and fall away, they are impermanent. Jenta had developed vipassana and he had penetrated the three characteristics of impermanence, dukkha and anatta of all realities which appeared in his daily life. Otherwise he could not have attained arahatship. Even a short reminder of impermanence, as we find in Jenta's verse, is very beneficial, it can be a condition for us not to delay awareness of the nama or rupa appearing at this moment. In order to realize the arising and falling away of nama and rupa vipassana has to be developed stage by stage, but it is of no use to worry about the difficulty of its development. We should begin at the present moment, be it seeing, hearing or thinking.
One may find it difficult to be mindful of realities while one is working, while one is in a hurry or while one is speaking. Not only laypeople, but also monks have many tasks to perform. It is very useful to read about the monks' daily life in the Vinaya . The monks had to sweep around their dwelling places, they had to clean their dwellings, they had to wash their robes, but they had to perform their tasks with mindfulness of nama and rupa. We read in the "Book of Discipline" (IV, Ch II, Observance, 118):
Now at that time the Observance-hall in a certain residence came to be soiled. Incoming monks looked down upon, criticised, spread it about, saying: "How can these monks not sweep the Observance-hall?" They told this matter to the Lord. He said: "I allow you, monks, to sweep the Observance-hall."
The Buddha had to give the monks permission to perform such tasks as sweeping or cleaning, but he would not have given them permission to do these chores if mindfulness during their work was impossible. The Vinaya is the "Middle Way"; the observance of the rules should go together with the development of right understanding of whatever reality naturally appears in daily life.
We read in the "Kindred Sayings"( IV, Part II, Kindred Sayings about Feeling, 3, 26) that the Buddha said:
There are these three feelings, monks. What three? Pleasant feeling, painful feeling, neutral feeling.
Whatsoever recluses or brahmins understand not as they really are the arising, the destruction, the satisfaction and misery of, the escape from, these three feelings, those recluses and brahmins are approved neither among recluses as recluses nor among brahmins as brahmins. And those venerable ones have not understood of themselves, have not realized, the profit of being recluses or brahmins, nor have they lived in the attainment thereof.
But those recluses and brahmins who have done so, are approved both among recluses as recluses and among brahmins as brahmins. And those venerable ones have understood of themselves, have realized, the profit of being recluses or brahmins, and having so attained do live in the present life.
Feeling arises with each moment of citta but we are usually unaware of the different feelings. The monks who were not mindful and did not understand the true nature of feeling, as impermanent, dukkha and anatta, were not approved of. In order to be a true recluse they should develop right understanding of nama and rupa.
We read in the "Gradual Sayings"( II, Book of the Fours, Ch II, 2, Virtue ):
Devoted to virtue you should dwell, O monks, devoted to the discipline of the Order and restrained by that discipline! Perfect be your conduct and behaviour! Seeing danger even in the smallest transgression, you should train yourselves in the rules which you have accepted! But if a monk lives like that, what should he further do?
If a monk, while walking, standing, sitting or reclining, is free from greed and hatred, from sloth and torpor, from restlessness and worry, and has discarded sceptical doubt, then his will has become strong and impregnable; his mindfulness is alert and unclouded; his body calm and unexcited; his mind concentrated and collected.
A monk who in such a manner ever and again shows earnest endeavour and moral shame, is called energetic and resolute.
Controlled when walking, standing, sitting and reclining,
Controlled in bending, stretching of the limbs,
Careful observer of the world around him:
He knows how khandhas arise and cease.
He who thus lives with ardent mind
And calm demeanour, free from restlessness,
Who trains himself in quietude of mind,
With constancy and perseverance-
As "Ever-resolute" that monk is known.
In the "Maha-satipatthana sutta" (Dialogues of the Buddha II, no. 22) and in the "Satipatthana sutta" (Middle Length Sayings I, no. 10) the Buddha also explained that the monk should practise "clear comprehension", sati and right understanding, in all postures. When we read in the above-quoted translation the word "controlled", we should remember that there is no self who controls; the word "controlled" implies mindfulness of realities. We are walking, standing, sitting or reclining, bending and stretching during the day, and at all those moments realities are appearing through the six doors. Right understanding can be developed no matter what one is doing. When we read about the tasks the monks had to perform we can read such passages with right understanding of the goal of monkhood: the development of right understanding to the degree of arahatship. The Buddha did not have to repeat all the time: "do your tasks with mindfulness", because he had explained this already.
In the beginning the Buddha had not laid down rules of conduct, but when monks deviated from their purity of life there was an occasion to lay down rules. We read in the "Book of Discipline"( I, Suttavibhanga, Defeat I, 9) that Sariputta said to the Buddha:
"It is the right time, lord, it is the right time, well-farer, at which the lord should make known the course of training for disciples and should appoint the Patimokkha, in order that this Brahma-life may persist and last long."
"Wait, Sariputta, wait, Sariputta. The tathagata will know the right time for that. The teacher does not make known, Sariputta, the course of training for disciples, or appoint the Patimokkha until some conditions causing the cankers appear here in the Order. And as soon, Sariputta, as some conditions causing the cankers appear here in the Order, then the teacher makes known the course of training for disciples, he appoints the Patimokkha in order to ward off those conditions causing the cankers....
The rules of Patimokkha, a collection of precepts, were recited twice a month. We read about the purposes of the rules the monks had to observe in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Twos, Ch XVII, 1, Results):
Monks, it was to bring about these pairs of results that the Observances were enjoined on his disciples by the Tathagata. What two?
The excellence and well-being of the Order...
The control of ill-conditioned monks and the comfort of good monks...
The restraint, in this very life, of the asavas, guilt, faults, fears and unprofitable states: and the protection against the same in a future life.
Out of compassion for householders, and to uproot the factions of the evilly disposed...
To give confidence to believers, and for the betterment of believers...
To establish true Dhamma, for the support of the Discipline...
Monks, it was to bring about these pairs of results....
As we read, one of the results is the restraint of the asavas, all defilements. The rules help the monk to be mindful and to develop right understanding in order to eradicate all defilements. The rules for the monk should not be separated from the development of satipatthana.
We read in the "Book of Discipline"(III, Suttavibhanga, Training, 195) about a group of six monks who had bad manners while eating. We read:
... Now at that time the group of six monks, while eating, put the whole hand into the mouth...
"I will not put the whole hand into the mouth while eating," is a training to be observed."
One should not put the whole hand into the mouth while eating. Whoever out of disrespect puts the whole hand into the mouth while eating, there is an offence of wrong-doing.
There is no offence if it is unintentional, if he is not thinking, if he does not know, if he is ill, ... if he is mad, if he is the first wrong-doer....
We read time and again, when there is reference to a bad deed, that the Buddha asked whether the person who did a bad deed had the intention or volition to do such a deed. He should scrutinize himself as to this. From the Abhidhamma we learn that akusala kamma is actually unwholesome intention, akusala cetana cetasika. We read that there is no offence when someone is the first wrong-doer. The reason is that at that moment there is no rule yet which can be transgressed.
Further on we read about other rules, given on account of bad manners of the "group of six monks". We read, for example, about the following rules:
... "I will not talk with a mouthful in the mouth," is a training to be observed....
..."I will not eat tossing up balls (of food)," is a training to be observed...
..."I will not eat stuffing the cheeks," is a training to be observed...
..."I will not eat smacking the lips," is a training to be observed...
..."I will not eat making a hissing sound," is a training to be observed...
..."I will not eat licking the fingers," is a training to be observed...
..."I will not eat licking the bowl," is a training to be observed...
These are only a few examples of rules of conduct to be observed while eating. The monk should see danger in the smallest faults. When he is mindful of nama and rupa also while eating he will not eat thoughtlessly. The almsfood he receives is a gift of the faithful layfollowers and he should be worthy of this gift. It should remind him of the obligation of striving after the goal of monkhood. When the food is delicious lobha is likely to arise, but he can be mindful of lobha and realize it as only a type of nama.
We read in the "Book of Discipline"(IV, Mahavagga, I, The Great Section, 45-54) about rules concerning the conduct of the newly ordained monk towards his preceptor, a person who gives guidance to him. We read:
"Monks, I allow a preceptor. The preceptor, monks, should arouse in the one who shares his cell the attitude of a son; the one who shares his cell should arouse in the preceptor the attitude of a father. Thus these, living with reverence, with deference, with courtesy towards one another, will come to growth, to increase, to maturity in this dhamma and discipline..."
Here, the Buddha reminds the monks again of the purpose of the rules: growth and maturity in this "dhamma and discipline". The pupil has to perform many tasks for the preceptor, but not without mindfulness of nama and rupa. We read:
"The one who shares a cell, monks, should conduct himself properly towards the preceptor. This is the proper conduct in this repect: having got up early, having taken off his sandals, having arranged his upper robe over one shoulder, he should give tooth-wood, he should give water for rinsing the mouth, he should make ready a seat. If there is conjey , having washed the bowl, the conjey should be placed near (the preceptor). When he has drunk the conjey, having given him water, having received the bowl, having lowered it, having washed it properly without rubbing it, it should be put away. When the preceptor has got up, the seat should be removed. If that place is soiled, that place should be swept....
Further on we read about many other tasks the newly ordained monk had to perform for his preceptor. He should prepare a bath for him, and arrange for everything the preceptor needs in the bathroom. He should clean the dwelling place and sweep it when it is soiled. He should open the windows by day if the weather is cool and close them at night. If the wheather is warm, he should close the windows by day and open them at night. He should not only look after the preceptor's material needs, but he should also help him as regards his spiritual needs. We read (49):
If dissatisfaction has arisen in the preceptor, the one who shares his cell should allay it or should get (another) to allay it, or he should give him a talk on dhamma. If remorse has arisen in the preceptor, the one who shares the cell should dispel it, or he should give him a talk on dhamma. If wrong views have arisen in the preceptor, the one who shares the cell should dissuade him (from them) or should get (another) to dissuade him (from them), or he should give him a talk on dhamma....
We then read about the obligations of the preceptor towards the monk who shares his cell. He should help him with regard to the recitation of the texts, exhort and instruct him. He should also help him in material way and look after him when he is sick.
Reading the details about the many tasks the monks had to perform in their daily life is useful for laypeople as well. The Buddha exhorted the monks to develop satipatthana during all their activities and this can remind laypeople that, no matter what they are doing, there are realities appearing through the six doors which can be objects of mindfulness. There are nama and rupa when one cleans one's house, open and close windows or look after sick relatives. The Vinaya does not contain merely rules, but also discourses in which the Buddha explained about absolute realities which can be objects of mindfulness and right understanding. There is also Abhidhamma in the Vinaya; the Buddha explained about the four noble Truths, about the five khandhas, about all the objects impinging on the six doors. Thus, the Vinaya, the Suttanta and the Abhidhamma are in conformity with each other.
We read in the Book of Discipline (IV, Mahavagga, I, The Great Section, 21) that the Buddha, while he was staying near Gaya with thousand monks who had formerly been "matted hair ascetics", addressed these monks:
Monks, everything is burning. And what, monks, is everything that is burning? The eye, monks, is burning, visible objects are burning, seeing-consciousness is burning, eye-contact is burning, in other words the feeling which arises from eye-contact, be it pleasant or painful or neither painful nor pleasant, that too is burning. With what is it burning? I say it is burning with the fire of passion, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of stupidity; it is burning because of birth, ageing, dying, because of grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation and despair.
The ear... sounds...the nose...odours... the tongue... tastes... the body... tangible objects... the mind... mental states... mind-consciousness is burning, mind-contact is burning, in other words the feeling which arises through mind-contact, be it pleasant or painful or neither painful nor pleasant, that too is burning. With what is it burning? I say it is burning with the fire of passion, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of stupidity; it is burning because of birth, ageing, dying, because of grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation and despair.
Seeing this, monks, the instructed disciple of the ariyans disregards the eye and he disregards visible objects and he disregards seeing-consciousness and he disregards eye-contact, in other words the feeling which arises from eye-contact, be it pleasant or painful or neither painful nor pleasant, that too he disregards. And he disregards the ear... sounds... the nose... odours... the tongue... tastes...the body... tangible objects... the mind... mental states... mind-consciousness... mind-contact, in other words the feeling that arises from mind-contact, be it pleasant or painful or neither painful nor pleasant, that too he disregards; disregarding, he is dispassionate; through dispassion he is freed; in freedom the knowledge comes to be, "I am freed", and he comprehends: Destroyed is birth, lived is the Brahma-faring, done is what was to be done, there is no more of being such or such."
And while this discourse was being uttered, the minds of these thousand monks were freed from the cankers without grasping.
In this passage the Buddha taught Abhidhamma: he taught about cittas experiencing objects through the six doors, he taught about cetasikas such as contact, feeling, lobha (attachment), dosa (aversion) and moha (ignorance), and he taught about rupas such as the sense objects and the senses; in short, he taught about absolute realities. He showed the danger of lobha, dosa, and moha, which arise on account of what is experienced through the six doors. So long as there are defilements there will be birth, old age, sickness and death, and all the suffering inherent in the cycle of birth and death. Right understanding of each reality which appears leads to detachment. The monks who listened were mindful of seeing, visible object, hearing, sound, of all namas and rupas which appeared at that moment. We tend to cling to ourselves, we think of the body as if it belongs to us, we think of our eyes, ears, arms and legs, and we forget the conditions from which it originates. The rupas we call our body are rupas produced by the four factors of kamma, citta, food and temperature. No matter whether we walk, stand, sit or lie down, bend or stretch, the rupas of the body which arise and fall away are produced by these four factors. A dead body cannot move, there are only rupas produced by temperature. We are inclined to forget that earsense is a particular rupa in the ear produced by kamma throughout our life, and that it arises and falls away. Earsense can only be contacted by sound. Sound is a rupa which can be heard by hearing-consciousness. We are inclined to take hearing for self but we can verify that it is a type of nama arisen because of its appropriate conditions. The monks who listened developed right understanding even to the degree of arahatship. They were freed from birth.
The goal of monkhood is arahatship and therefore the monks who were not arahats yet had to listen to the teachings, consider them and develop satipatthana. They recited the Buddha's teachings, they held Dhamma discussions and they taught the Dhamma. We read in the "Dialogues of the Buddha"(III, no. 29, The Delectable Discourse) that the Buddha said to Cunda that he, the Buddha, had come to his journey's end, but that there were senior monks who were well trained, who had attained arahatship and were able to propagate the Dhamma. He said that there were also monks of middle age and standing who were his disciples and who were wise. He said that among his disciples there were also novices, sisters, laymen and laywomen. His religion (brahmacariya, the "brahman life") was in every way successful, complete, well set forth in all its full extent. Further on the Buddha said to Cunda:
Wherefore, Cunda, do you, to whom I have made known the truths that I have perceived, come together in company and rehearse all of you together those doctrines and quarrel not over them, but compare meaning with meaning, and phrase with phrase, in order that this pure religion may last long and be perpetuated, in order that it may continue to be for the good and happiness of the great multitudes, out of love for the world, to the good and the gain and the happiness of devas and men!
It was the task of the Sangha, the Order of monks, to preserve the teachings and to hand them on to future generations. Many of the Buddha's disciples had attained arahatship and among them Sariputta and Moggallana were the Buddha's chief disciples. They were called by the Buddha "model and standard" for the other monks. Sariputta, who was called the "marshall of the Dhamma" was the guardian of the welfare of the monks . With his penetrative understanding and ability to teach he explained in detail the sermons which the Buddha had preached in brief. The systematization of the Abhidhamma texts also originated with Sariputta . Sariputta and Moggallana had passed away before the Buddha and thus they did not attend the Great Council which was held at Rajagaha, shortly after the Buddha's passing away. We read in the "Expositor" (Atthasalini I, Introductory Discourse, 27):
Thus at the time of the Rehearsal at the First Council, held by the five hundred, the company of the self-controlled , who recited under the presidency of Maha Kassapa did so after previous determination: "This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya "; these are the first words, these the middle words, these the later words of the Buddha; this is the Vinaya-Pitaka, this the Suttanta-Pitaka, this the Abhidhamma-Pitaka, this the Digha Nikaya (Dialogues of the Buddha), the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Sayings), the Samyutta Nikaya (Kindred Sayings), the Anguttara Nikaya (Gradual Sayings), the Khuddaka Nikaya (Minor Collection); these the nine parts, to wit, the Suttas, etc. ; these the eighty-four thousand units of text."
All this was rehearsed in seven months. Maha Kassapa interrogated Upali, a monk who knew the Vinaya by heart, on the entire Vinaya. After that he interrogated ananda on the rest of the teachings . ananda, who had been the Buddha's personal attendant during his last twentyfive years and who had attained arahatship on the eve of the Council, had a powerful memory of all that was spoken by the Buddha, even eighty-four thousand units of texts; he remembered where a sermon was spoken and on what occasion. The discourses of the first four Nikayas start with ananda's words: Thus have I heard, in Pali: Evam me suttam. This indicates that he only rehearsed what was spoken by the Buddha.
We read further on in the "Introductory Discourse" of the "Expositor" about the importance of understanding Abhidhamma:
...And tradition has it that those bhikkhus only who know Abhidhamma are true preachers of the Dhamma; the rest, though they speak on the Dhamma, are not preachers thereof. And why? They, in speaking on the Dhamma, confuse the different kinds of Kamma and of its results, the distinction between nama and rupa, and the different kinds of dhammas. The students of Abhidhamma do not thus get confused; hence a bhikkhu who knows Abhidhamma, whether he preaches Dhamma or not, will be able to answer questions whenever asked. He alone, therefore, is a true preacher of the Dhamma.
Even today the Sangha, the Order of monks, should continue to preserve the Buddha's teachings by the study and the practice of the Dhamma.
We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (II, Book of the Fours, Fourth Fifty, Ch XVI, 10, The Wellfarer's Discipline) that there are four things which lead to the vanishing of Saddhamma, true Dhamma: the monks learn by heart a text that is wrongly taken, the monks are incapable of being instructed, the monks who know the teachings by heart do not dutifully hand on a text, and the monks are backsliding, and do not make an effort to win the goal. We then read :
Now, monks, these four things conduce to the support, to the non-confusion, to the not vanishing away of Saddhamma. What four?
Herein the monks get by heart a text that is rightly taken, with words and sense that are rightly arranged. Now if words and sense are rightly arranged the meaning also is easy to follow...
Then again the monks are easy to speak to, possessed of qualities which make them easy to speak to; they are tractable, capable of being instructed...
Yet again those monks who are of wide knowledge, versed in the doctrines, who know Dhamma by heart, who know the Vinaya by heart, who know the summaries by heart,- these dutifully hand on a text to another; thus, when they pass away, the text is not cut down at the root, it has something to stand on...
Yet again the elder monks live not in abundance, they are not lax, they take not the lead in backsliding (to the worldly life), they shirk not the burden of the secluded life, they set going an effort to reach the unattained, to win the goal not won, to realize the unrealized. So the generation that follows comes to depend upon their view. That generation also lives not in abundance... but makes an effort to realize the unrealized...
So these, monks, are the four things that conduce to the support, to the non-confusion, to the not vanishing away of Saddhamma.