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  • Government Services Buddhist Association
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Nibbana : Our Goal

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NIBBANA : OUR GOAL

 Asoka Mahinda Jayasinha -

1. Reaching the Goal

The wish may someone attain Nibbana is heard often and the main banner at funerals. While the wish might bene- fit the deceased or not, it will benefit the ones who wish because of the Metta motivating such a wish. Metta is called a wish that someone be well and happy but needs clarification because such a state is ultimately a description suitable to describe an Arahat’s state of mind. So, to understand this better we can use the meaning given to Metta by the Late Ven. Piyadassi Maha Thera who preferred to use the expression : “May your Upward path be smooth.” This is indeed an expression of Loving Kindness or Metta.

2. Striving to reach the Goal

Metta so expressed to ourselves and others is fine-tuned to the hard work called-for. In His last words too the Lord Buddha exhorted that we should strive with diligence. Earlier, on numer- ous occasions He repeatedly said that the Dhamma is for the ener- getic and not for the lazy. The basic mode is Sila, Samãdhi, Pañña; with Sila (Morality) the basic conduct to proceed to Samadhi (Concentration) and Panna (Wisdom). Before proceed- ing to Samãdhi and Pañña the requirement is Knowledge.

3. Knowledge

In ascending order it is: a Suthamaya Nnana ie. obtained ̄ from study of the Dhamma through a deep study of the Suttas(assisted where relevant by the Commentaries), Dhamma Sermons and Discussions. This is followed by Chintamaya Nnana 40 ie. Contemplation of what is learned by getting the Big Picture and not loosing the wood for the trees. In Sinhala it is “menehi kireema..” Next is Bhavanamaya Nnana ie. Training for Mental Development through attainment of BOTH Concentration and Insight; requiring Bhavana Sessions going through the exercises in the Sathipatthana Sutta; after practice acquired in the Anapanasati Sutta supplemented by the Kayagasati Sutta. N.B. Beginners should get guidance from well-known Teachers or on the Internet from Ajahn Brahmawanso. Ajahn Brahmawamso has 2 classes, for beginners and on-going Meditators. The website is Buddhist Society of Western Australia(BSWA).

4. Basic Knowledge for on-going Meditators

After familiarity with A ̄nãpana Sati and before starting a Bhavana Session, the required basic drill is to go through in ser- atim the 37 Constituents of Enlightenment with uppermost the 7 Factors of Enlightenment followed by the 4 Noble Truths. This review gives the armoury for success during Bhavana by brush- ing off distracting thoughts like brushing off a fly. The need for memorizing and prior review is stated for instance in the Pasãdika Sutta in the Digha Nikaya. This conditions the mind by giving the inclination (Dvedavitakka Sutta, Majjima Nikaya).

5. Bhavanã

This consists of Concentration and Insight to be in Samadhi and Panna. Of the two there is no mutual exclusion between the two. Specifically, one can begin with Insight (for example to see how one is seated to begin) and get on to suppressing the 5 Hindrances (Panca Nivarana) and then to concentrating on the Breath Meditation. As Bhavana proceeds one deepens the Concentration while focussing on the objects of meditation in the successive 4 Arousals of mindfulness as given in the Satipattana Sutta. While Concentrating is a constant attainment, Insight is not possible alone by itself. This means there is no place for a so- called Dry-eyed Meditator. The Canonical Authority for this is for instance in the Sermon by Ven.Ananda after he became an Arahat 41 (q.v.Anguttara Nikaya IV, 170 found as Text 83 in the AN Anthology by Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikku Bodhi in the Delhi Vistaar Ed.)

6. More on Concentration

This includes the Jhanas. As Bhikku Bodhi points-out, at the mundane level both Rupa and Arupa Jhanas can be attained; not of course to dwell in but as part of deep concentration. For the Rupas q.v. Potthapada Sutta and the Arupas the Cula Sunnata Sutta in the Digha Nikaya and Majjima Nikaya respectively. Insight is explained in the latter as the descent into the void when progressively one attainment is followed by a higher one. In brief, Bhavana is to get Insight Wisdom of Anicca, Dukka and Anatta. While in deep concentration at least the 1st Rupa Jhana is attained after the Panca nivaranas are suppressed. The right mix given by the Lord Buddha for sustaining Jhana and Vipassana together is;Energy(VIRIYA) balanced with Concentration(JHANA);both supervised constantly by Mindfulness(SATI) q.v. The famous Sermon to Sona. (q.v.AN V1 55 ibid Text 130)

7. Understanding Anicca Dukkha and Anatta through the Satipattana Sutta

This Sutta is called by the Lord Buddha “ekayano maggo”the ONLY way which lies within the Noble Eight Fold Path the Way out of Suffering. This Sutta shows how to use Mindfulness to practice the Noble Eight-Fold Path itself.

8. Practising for Ekayano Maggo

Firstly, the Meditator sits down in the posture and pays attention to the in-out breaths. Lord Buddha has stated that Anãpãnasati should be cultivated, to cut off distracting thoughts (AN IX, 3 ibid p.229). While in the exercise the following 3 steps should be taken: Firstly, present - moment awareness; Secondly, sustained present - moment awareness; Thirdly, change this to silent present-moment awareness by including the silent phases in between thus getting into Concentration. These 3 steps are so 42 described by Ajahn Brahmawanso. What is significantly noticed is how there is what he calls a “wobble” between the sustained and silent phases;until they stabilize into inner silence. The Late Ven. Piyadassi Maha Thera used the simile of a person trying to get onto a bicycle and after some hesitation this person is on it and smoothly away. The Commentaries use the simile of a bird struggling to take a few steps and after a brief hesitation is smoothly away in the air! Ofcourse, while in flight too some pushing is done to keep going. These 2 are none other than the 1st Jhana factors Vitakka (Applied Thought) and Vicara (Sustained Throught). When all the 5 factors in the 1st Jhana are applied (Piti-Joy;Sukha-bliss and Ekaggata - one - pointedness being the other3) then the 5 Nivaranas are suppressed. The Meditator keeps to the present moment;having given-up the past as beyond recall and the future not yet come. The Sutta Authority is in the Baddakarattha 2 Suttas in the Majjima Nikaya. the 1st 5 Jhana factors are called the Factors of Possession and the 5 Nivaranas the Factors of Abandonment (Arahat Sariputta’s Sermon Mahavedella Sutta in the Majjima Nikaya). The Commentaries show a one-to-one relationship between the two as follows:

Kamacchanda-Ekaggata; Vyapada-Piti; Thina-Middha- Vitakka; Uddacca-Kukucca-Sukha;

Vicikicca-Vicara (“The Path of Serenity and Insight” by Ven.Henepola Gunaratana Thera p.31).

9. Ekayano Maggo

While the Anapanasati sutta prepares one through its 4 Tetrads, the Satipatthana Sutta has the higher purpose of leading the Meditator, starting from Anapanasati to Vipassana based on deep concentration. This Sati accompanied by Clear Comprehension, is the method to develop Insight into Anicca, Dukka, and Anatta in each Arousing. There is a refrain to be prac- ticed for each for the purpose viz.1.Internally. externally & both internally & externally;2 Arising, ceasing and both arising and ceasing. This leads to seeing Anicca followed by Anatta; consolidating both as just Dukka. Note : While in Bhavana on each of the 4 Arousings of Mindfulness ( detailed in the Maha Satipattana Sutta) there are 5 ways of analysis that follow after this stage. As follow-up to the section which says Mindfulness is established that eg. The body exists, careful attention should be given to com- prehend this. What is meant is only accepting this view as a tem- porary thesis “JUST FOR” Knowledge and Remembrance. “JUST FOR” or YAVAD’EVA, is only as a sufficing condition for something else viz, Knowledge and Remembrance;explained by Bhikku Bodhi as: deeper and deeper knowledge and constant & unremitting mindfulness. The Meditator gets Insight that the opposite is Truth; seen then in a vague sequence of Arising, Fading away and Ceasing . Using the 5 ways in the Commentary the following are seen as the features: Ignorance, Craving,Kamma result of previous existence,and food (in the Body Mindfulness), Consciousness; Followed by the Anicca nature ( Banga Svabhava) Note this Commentarial gloss is derived from the Suttas themselves q.v. Samyutta Nikaya V47,24 (2) Origination; ibid 35(5) Mindful and 40(10). It is recommend- ed that the Reader keep for regular study “ The Way of Mindfulness” by Soma Thera. The vagueness is the knowledge that the Arising is noteworthy and the rest is seen vaguely. This is Bhava Sota or the Flux of Becoming; “vaguely” seen as becom- ing Otherwise; leading to the understanding that it is Anicca in operation.

10. Striving for Nibbana

Thus to get the Goal of Nibbana there is need for constant striving; proceeding from the 1st Goal of Sotapanna through two more to the final Goal of Arahathood which is Nibbana in this life itself. To study this progress an important Sutta is the Potthapada Sutta in the Digha Nikaya.

11. Concluding Remarks

To sum-up the points to high-light:

1.Sila - Samadhi - Pañña;

2. Observing Pansil as the basic requirement proceeding to practice Bhavana regularly

3. Resulting in practice of this mind - set (checking unwholesome thoughts with restraint and after observing them with Restraint - Samvara, changing them to wholesome thoughts;there by changing Lobha Dhosa into Alobha Adhosa; recognizing that there is just Volitional activity (kamma sankhara) without an idea of a permanent Self. This is the striving to keep adding to good kamma from Existence to Existence; until in the last viz, Arahathood there is in the seen only the seen;in the Heard only the Heard; in the Sensed only the Sensed; and in the Cognized only the Cognised (Kalakarama Sutta in “The Magic of the Mind” , by Ven, Katukurunde Nnanananda).

May the upward path of All Beings be Smooth!

Asoka Mahinda
Jayasinha 31/ 4 Hamers Avenue.
Colombo 06
Tel 0716821796

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