The Buddha's Journey of Enlightenment

  After the Buddha left his home and family, he practiced with two teachers: Alara Kalama and Uddaka Rampaputta. He learned and quickly reached ‘the base of nothingness’ and ‘the base of neither perception nor non-perception.’ However, the Buddha was not satisfied since they did not lead to Nibbana.

  For the next six years, he did extreme ascetic practices with the five bhikkhus. Although he practiced until he was near death, he did not reach Nibbana. At this point, he recalled the first jhana —he experienced when he was a child — that it may lead to enlightenment. Then realized that in his excessively emaciated physical condition, he could not do the jhana practice. So, he took solid food (milk porridge) to gain physical strength. Seeing this, his five bhikkhus left him in disgust. Therefore, he practiced jhana alone. He had five momentous dreams that foretold him the following:

  1. His discovery of the supreme, full enlightenment
  2. His discovery of the Noble Eightfold Path
  3. He will have many white-clothed lay followers
  4. The four castes would realize the supreme deliverance
  5. He will use four requisites (robes, alms, abode, and medicine) without greed or delusion or clinging, perceiving their dangers and understanding their purpose

  After eating solid food, he was able to reach first, second, third, and fourth jhana. With the concentration power he achieved through four jhanas, he recalled his numerous past lives; he saw beings passing away and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, happy and unhappy in their destinations; he attained true knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. Then, he was liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When he was liberated, there came the knowledge, ‘It is liberated.’

M. 15, 36, 85, 100, Sn. 3:2, A.5:196

 

Let's Begin!

001 Let’s Begin!

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

 Let’s see what the Buddha said about a layperson’s work that will lead to the welfare and happiness.

What to do:
“What is accomplishment in initiative? Here, whatever may be the means by which a clansman earns his living— whether by farming, trade, raising cattle, archery, government service, or some other craft— he is skillful and diligent; he possesses sound judgment about it in order to carry out and arrange it properly. This is called accomplishment in initiative.” [A8:54]

What not to do:
“A lay follower should not engage in these five trades. What five? Trading in weapons, trading in living beings, trading in meat, trading in intoxicants, and trading in poisons. A lay follower should not engage in these five trades.” [A5:177]

 

002 Let’s Begin!

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

Let’s see what the Buddha said about a layperson’s wealth that will lead to the welfare and happiness.

“And what is accomplishment in protection? Here, a clansman sets up protection and guard over the wealth he has acquired by initiative and energy, amassed by the strength of his arms, earned by the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained, thinking: ‘How can I prevent kinds and thieves from taking it, fire from burning it, floods from sweeping it off, and displeasing heirs from taking it?’ This is called accomplishment in protection.” [A8:54]

 

003 Let’s Begin!

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

Let’s see what the Buddha said about a layperson’s friends and practice that will lead to the welfare and happiness.

“And what is good friendship? Here, in whatever village or town a clansman lives, he associates with householders or their sons — whether you but of mature, or old and of mature virtue — who are accomplished in faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom; he converses with them and engages in discussions with them. Insofar as they are accomplished in faith, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in faith; insofar as they are accomplished in virtuous behavior, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in virtuous behavior; insofar as they accomplished in generosity, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in generosity; insofar as they are accomplished in wisdom, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in wisdom. This is called good friendship.” [A8:54]

 

004 Let’s Begin!

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

Let’s see what the Buddha said about a layperson’s living that will lead to the welfare and happiness.

“And what is balanced living? Here, a clansman knows his income and expenditures and leads a balanced life, neither too extravagant nor too frugal, [aware]: ‘In this way my income will exceed my expenditures rather than the reverse.’ Just as an appraiser or his apprentice, holding up a scale, knows; ‘By so much it has dipped down, by so much it has gone up,’ so a clansman knows his income and expenditures and leads a balanced life, neither too extravagant nor too frugal, [aware]: ‘In this way my income will exceed my expenditures rather than the reverse.’
“If this clansman has a small income but lives luxuriously, others would say of him: ‘This clansman eats his wealth just like an eater of figs.’ But if he has a large income but lives sparingly, others would say of him: ‘This clansman may even starve himself.’ But it is called balanced living when a clansman knows his income and expenditures and leads a balanced life, neither too extravagant nor too frugal, [aware]: ‘In this way my income will exceed my expenditures rather than the reverse.’
“The wealth thus amassed has four sources of dissipation: womanizing, drunkenness, gambling, and bad friendship, bad companionship, bad comradeship. Just as if there were a large reservoir with four inlets and four outlets, and a man would close the inlets and open the outlets, and sufficient rain does not fall, one could expect the water in the reservoir to decrease rather than increase; so the wealth thus amassed has four sources of dissipation; womanizing … bad comradeship.
“The wealth thus amassed has four sources of accretion; one avoids womanizing, drunkenness, and gambling, and cultivates good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship. Just as if there were a large reservoir with four inlets and four outlets, and a man would open the inlets and close the outlets, and sufficient rain falls; one could expect the water in the reservoir to increase rather than decrease, so the wealth amassed has four sources of accretion: one avoids womanizing … and cultivates good friendship.
“These are the four things that lead to the welfare and happiness of a clansman in this very life.” [A8:54]


005 Let’s Begin!

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

For a layperson to achieve happiness, the Buddha said; be skillful, be diligent, and possess sound judgment about one’s work; protect one’s wealth; good friendship; and live a balanced life.

Let’s see what the Buddha said about what kinds of happiness a layperson may enjoy having lived by his teaching.

“These four kinds of happiness that may be achieved by a layperson … What four?

1. The happiness of ownership
2. The happiness of enjoyment
3. The happiness of freedom from debt
4. The happiness of blamelessness”
[Freedom from Debt Sutta, A4: 62]

 

006 Let’s Begin!

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

 For a layperson to achieve happiness, the Buddha said; be skillful, be diligent, and possess sound judgment about one’s work; protect one’s wealth; good friendship; and live a balanced life.
 Included in the above “good friendship,” the Buddha specifically mentioned these four things to lay followers: faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom.” He said to seek those who have accomplished these four things, converse, and learn from them.

Faith:
“And what is accomplishment in faith? Here, a clansman is endowed with faith. He places faith in the enlightenment of the Tathagata thus: ‘The Blessed One is an arahant … teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened one, the Blessed one.’ This is called accomplishment in faith.”
[A8:54]

“Buddha Vandana

Iti pi so Bhagavâ-Araham Sammâ-sambuddho. Vijjâ-carana sampanno Sugato Lokavidû Anuttarro Purisa-damma-sârathi Satthâ deva-manussânam Buddho Bhagavâti

Homage to the Buddha

Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.”
[www.buddhanet.net]

 

007 Let’s Begin!
 

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

For a layperson to achieve happiness, the Buddha said; be skillful, be diligent, and possess sound judgment about one’s work; protect one’s wealth; good friendship; and live a balanced life.
 Included in the above “good friendship,” the Buddha specifically mentioned these four things to lay followers: faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom.” He said to seek those who have accomplished these four things, converse, and learn from them.

Virtuous behavior:

“And what is accomplishment in virtuous behavior? Here, a clansman abstains
from the destruction of life,
from taking what is not given,
from sexual misconduct,
from false speech, and
from liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness.”
[A8:54]

 

008 Let’s Begin!
 

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

For a layperson to achieve happiness, the Buddha said; be skillful, be diligent, and possess sound judgment about one’s work; protect one’s wealth; good friendship; and live a balanced life.
Included in the above “good friendship,” the Buddha specifically mentioned these four things to lay followers: faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom.” He said to seek those who have accomplished these four things, converse, and learn from them.

Generosity:
“And what is accomplishment in generosity? Here, a clansman dwells at home with a heart devoid of the stain of miserliness, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in relinquishment, one devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing. This is called accomplishment in generosity.”
[A8:54]

 

009 Let’s Begin!

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

For a layperson to achieve happiness, the Buddha said; be skillful, be diligent, and possess sound judgment about one’s work; protect one’s wealth; good friendship; and live a balanced life.
Included in the above “good friendship,” the Buddha specifically mentioned these four things to lay followers: faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom.” He said to seek those who have accomplished these four things, converse, and learn from them.

Wisdom:
“And what is accomplishment in wisdom? Here, a clansman is wise; he possesses the wisdom that discerns arising and passing away, which is noble and penetrative and leads to the complete destruction of suffering.”
[A8:54]

 

010 Let’s Begin!
 

Why should I begin?
In other words, what is my purpose or what’s in it for me?
The answer is simple: I want to be happy, or happier to be exact.

Then, what do I need to do?

For a layperson to achieve happiness, the Buddha said; be skillful, be diligent, and possess sound judgment about one’s work; protect one’s wealth; good friendship; and live a balanced life.
Included in the above “good friendship,” the Buddha specifically mentioned these four things to lay followers: faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom.” He said to seek those who have accomplished these four things, converse, and learn from them.

In other words, I must practice wisdom (insight, vipassana) meditation. The Buddha taught three kinds of meditation: mindfulness, concentration, and insight meditation.
Of the three meditations, which one should I practice first? Mindfulness meditation is fundamental, basic, and needed in all three meditation practices; therefore, I need to practice mindfulness first.
The Buddha said, “Strong mindfulness, however, is needed in all instances … So, it is as desirable in all instances as a seasoning of salt in all sauces, as a prime minister in all the king’s business.” [Vis. IV. 49, translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli]

Bibliography

A translation of the Anguttara Nikaya by Bhikkhu Bodhi, ©2012 Bhikkhu Bodhi, Reprinted by permission of Wisdom Publications, www.wisdompubs.org

 

Why Meditate?

001 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<The Origin of the Current Meditation Boom in America and its Purpose>
The following is my personal view of the subject matter. ^^

The Buddhist practice of meditation — or the practice — is done to accomplish deliverance∙Nibbana. The Buddha, Gautama, had realized the truth only using his body and mind through practice 2,600 years ago.

However, people today use the practice for many benefits short of achieving deliverance Nibbana. Modern human beings learned and practiced Buddha's teachings and realized that even basic practice can be beneficial. In order to reduce the pain of life and increase happiness using this basic practice, various programs have been created based on the Buddha's teaching. One example is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which began in 1979 in the United States.

 

002 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<The Purposes of Applied Buddhism>
The following is my personal view of the subject matter. ^^

There are many programs similar to MBSR in the United States and many practice in such programs. I know that these kinds of program are available in Korea these days, too. The purposes of these kinds of program are somewhat different from the purpose of Buddha's teaching — deliverance∙Nibbana. A few examples of the purposes of such programs are as follows:

• To reduce stress and to prevent disease and cure disease
• To rely on meditation instead of pain medication or drugs
• To increase the effectiveness of learning
• To help children with behavior issues
• To rehabilitate criminals
• To achieve higher productivity at work
• To get along well with people around you

The accomplishment of any of the above would result in the increase of happiness in the present life.
So, what did the Buddha teach laypeople about increasing happiness in the present life?

 

003 Why Meditate?
—About Applied Buddhism

< What did the Buddha Teach Laypeople about how to Increase Happiness in the Present Life>
According to the Early Buddhist discourse, the Anguttara Nikaya,

“These four things lead to the welfare and happiness of a clansman in this present life. What four?
1. Accomplishment in initiative
2. Accomplishment in protection
3. Good friendship
4. Balanced living”
[Dighajanu Sutta, A8:54, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi]

“These four kinds of happiness that may be achieved by a layperson … What four?
1. The happiness of ownership
2. The happiness of enjoyment
3. The happiness of freedom from debt
4. The happiness of blamelessness”
[Blessing, A4: 62, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi]

In other words, “one must live a morally wholesome life and help others. The Buddha called this morality (sila) and generosity (dana). Likewise, one obtains happiness in the present life by learning and practicing one’s appropriate skills, living a morally wholesome life, and helping others.” [Introduction to Early Buddhism, authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk]

 

004 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<What Practice did the Buddha Teach Laypeople to Do for the Benefit and Happiness in the Present Life>

In the Dighajanu Sutta [A8:54], “good friendship” covers this topic:

“Here, in whatever village or town a clansman lives, he associates with householders or their sons — whether young but of mature virtue, or old and of mature virtue — who are accomplished in faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom; he converses with them and engages in discussions with them. Insofar as they are accomplished in faith, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in faith; insofar as they are accomplished in virtuous behavior, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in virtuous behavior; insofar as they are accomplished in generosity, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in generosity; insofar as they are accomplished in wisdom, he emulates them with respect to
their accomplishment in wisdom. This is called good friendship.” [Dighajanu Sutta, A8:54, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi]

 

005 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<The Meditation Boom and the Meditation Population >

Recently, a meditation boom is sweeping the earth. This happened first in America and then in China, which has gradually loosened its rules on religion and is rediscovering its roots in Buddhism. India is also rediscovering yoga and meditation. These three nations’ population —at 3 billion — is about 40% of total earth population of 7.6 billion. When we add to this the nations which typically follow America’s trends, I think it would be well over 50% of the total earth population who are potentially meditating. This trend is a truly astonishing development. One could call it the “Renaissance of Human Spirituality.”

The modern meditation boom started for a variety of reasons, including improving health, spirituality, and religion. Health is perhaps the primary reason people turn to meditation today. I wonder how monastics who have kept the Buddha's teaching through the ages view this trend.

 

006 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<How Monastics who have kept the Buddha's Teaching through the Ages see this Trend>

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi states,

“Meditation is being taught to help people obtain release, not from the cycle of birth and death, but from the strains of financial pressures, psychological disorders, and stressful relationships … Is the pure Dhamma being diluted for secular ends, reduced to a mere therapy? Won’t the outcome be to make samsara more pleasant rather than to liberate people from the cycle of rebirths? Did anyone ever attain enlightenment in a medical clinic? It is my personal belief that we need to strike a balance between caution and appreciation.
I call to mind a statement the Buddha made in the weeks before his death: ‘The Tathagata has no closed fist of a teacher with respect to teachings.’ By this, he meant that he had taught everything important without holding back any esoteric doctrines, but I like to interpret his words to mean that we can let anyone take from the Dhamma whatever they find useful even if it is for secular purposes.
At the same time, I also believe that it is our responsibility, as heirs of the Dhamma, to remind such experimenters that they have entered a sanctuary deemed sacred by Buddhists. Thus, respectful towards their sources, they should pursue their investigations with humility and gratitude.”

 

007 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<The Tsunami is Approaching>
The following is my personal view of the subject matter. ^^

Whether monastics and lay Buddhists approve the secular use of the Buddha’s teaching or not, I believe it is too late to harness this latest meditation movement. The bird has flown the coop. This “Renaissance of Human Spirituality” now has a life of its own and will evolve on its own. I compare this meditation trend to a tsunami. So, what should Buddhists do to prepare for the approaching tsunami?

 

008 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<A Practice Not Firmly Established on the Buddha’s Teaching>
The following is my personal view of the subject matter. ^^

Generally speaking, in America, when meditation is used for secular purposes, meditators are not familiar with the theory of the Buddha’s teaching. Often, the practice (meditation) has been simplified and modified to suit a particular secular purpose. In some cases, it is given a name of another religion as the origin of the teaching.
My deepest concern for these lay meditators is that regardless of their motives for their meditation practice, sooner or later, they will have unusual experiences borne of meditation. They will need the Buddha’s teaching to interpret these unusual experiences. If not, they will be led astray.

 

009 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<What would the Buddha want Us to Do>
The following is my personal view of the subject matter. ^^

The Buddha was born in Asia and taught in Asia. By and large, Buddhism has been a religion of Asia for the last 2,600 years. This means Asians have been the heirs of the Dhamma and have had a head start on Buddhist practice (meditation) for hundreds of years. I think Asian Buddhist communities have a moral responsibility to help the new meditators of the West. Is this what the Buddha would want Asians to do?

 

010 Why Meditate?
- About Applied Buddhism

<Future Plans>
The following is my personal view of the subject matter. ^^

What should We Do? What can We Do?

The West already has suttas, etc. in English. However, the West needs experienced Dhamma teachers. Although the number of Dhamma teachers is growing in the West, these Dhamma teachers are outnumbered by the vast number of active meditators in the West.

Are Asian Buddhist communities prepared for this missionary work?

These missionaries must speak English, have a thorough knowledge of suttas, have extensive meditation experience, and have teaching experience.

A most important factor for these missionaries to keep in mind is this: do not try to convert the meditators to Buddhism as a religion. Even the Ven. Dalai Lama, on his visit to America, cautioned us to not convert Westerners to Buddhism as a religion.

May many Dhamma teachers come to help newcomers to the Buddha’s path!

 

What am I ?

001 What am I?

I am the five aggregates.

What are the five aggregates?

The five aggregates are materiality and mentality (feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness)

 

002 What am I?

I am a pile of the five aggregates, a conceptual being.

What are conceptual beings?

All things that can be taken apart: smart phone, computer, TV, car, human, animal, earth, world, etc.

 

003 What am I?

Curious children take their toys apart to find out how they work. When these curious children grow up and become scientists, they too take everything apart to figure out how everything works. That is modern science.

The Buddha used deconstruction method on his own body and mind (mentality) and realized the truth. Therefore, Buddha teaches deconstruction.

When 'I' is deconstructed, there are the five aggregates, or body and mentality (feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness). Therefore, the answer is naturally, 'I am the five aggregates.'

 

004 What am I?

Most frequent answers to this question are as follows:

I stick many labels [to form myself], such as I am a Korean, woman, age, physical measurements, education, occupation, family relations, address, phone number, resident card number, driver's license number, etc. These labels are created to distinguish 'I' from all other things in the world. These labels are only labels [without substance] and do not necessarily let me know as to what I am made up of. I am the five aggregates. I am body and mentality which can be further deconstructed into feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Adding body to the four mentalities, there is a pile of the five aggregates.

 

005 What am I?

I am the five aggregates.

What are the five aggregates?

 The five aggregates are materiality and mentality.

What is materiality?

 Earth, water, fire, air elements+24 derived elements=28 types

What is mentality?

 Feeling (3 types), perception, mental formations (50 types), consciousness (89 types)

Like this, one finds the answer through deconstruction.

Then, what is the answer?

 

006 What am I?

When 'I' is deconstructed, I am the five aggregates.

To deconstruct, one needs strong, sharp, and precise tools like surgical instruments. These tools are gained through meditation and continue to be sharpened through meditation. It is a function of meditation to deconstruct my body and mind (the five aggregates) with the tools obtained through meditation.

How many types of Buddhist meditations are there?

And what is the purpose of each meditation?

 

007 What am I?

To learn about me, the most important and lovely being [to myself],

I deconstruct my body and mind with the tools I developed through my meditation. This allows me to know the truth about the being, 'I.'

The central part of the Buddha's teaching starts with 'I' and ends with 'I.' Then, what is the truth of the being, 'I'?

 

008 What am I?

I am a person who continuously pursues happiness.

So, what and how should I do more to be happier?

The Buddha said that to be happy in one's present and future lives, observe precepts (morality), donate and volunteer (generosity), and work hard on what is right for oneself. If one wants to find ultimate happiness beyond that, practice.

I do not know about future lives since I have not been there. But I have never been 100% happy continuously. It seems to me that I am moderately in pain and moderately happy, 50/50. If I am satisfied with this, I do not have to practice. Of course, if I am dissatisfied with 50/50 and want 100% happiness, I must practice and find the answer. What do I honestly want and am I prepared to pay the price for what I want ...

 

009 What am I?

I am the five aggregates.

When the five aggregates are deconstructed through meditation, the impermanence-suffering-non self of the five aggregates would be seen.

Impermanence: 'I' am constantly changing. Therefore, there is nothing that I can call 'I.' Suffering: Since there is no 'I' or 'mine' due to lack of inherent existence of 'I,' it is unsatisfactory and suffering.

Non Self: Consequently, there is no such thing as 'I.'

277. `All created things perish,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way to purity.

278. `All created things are grief and pain,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.

279. `All forms are unreal,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.

The Buddha. The Dhammapada (The Buddha's Path of Truth) (Kindle Locations 551-556). Formax Publishing. Kindle Edition.

 

010 What am I?

I am a pile of the five aggregates with no inherent existence (non-self) when deconstructed through meditation.

Why don’t I exist when I am vividly here right now?

It is not that ‘I’ don’t exist. It is when my body and mentality (the five aggregates) are deconstructed, my body and mentality (the five aggregates) continuously change at an impossible speed for human’s bare eyes to notice. Therefore, ‘I’ is non-self. 2,600 years ago, the Buddha discovered this truth only using his body and mentality through meditation.

The most advanced science, quantum physics, experimented using an enormous machine (Large Hadron Collider) to deconstruct matters (this includes my body) and came to this conclusion, ‘To date, the smallest matter continuously change at an extremely fast speed. Therefore, it cannot be said that matter has inherent existence.

The Buddha is truly smart, and I am truly ignorant.

 

011 What am I?

I am the five aggregates. When the five aggregates are deconstructed, the impermanence-suffering-non self of the five aggregates is seen.

What is suffering?

Eight kinds of suffering: birth, aging, illness, death, union with what is displeasing, separation from what is pleasing, not to get what one wants, and the five aggregates subject to clinging

Three characteristics of suffering: suffering due to pain, change, and formations.

 

012 What am I?

I am the five aggregates. When the five aggregates are deconstructed, the impermanence-suffering-non self of the five aggregates is seen.

Suffering, suffering, ‘I’ (the five aggregates) is suffering. Then, is my entire life truly suffering? No. I am somewhat happy and somewhat unhappy. Nevertheless, happiness is subject to change, therefore, fundamentally suffering.

How can I become happier?

According to the Buddha’s teaching, one can gain happiness in this and next lives and even realize the ultimate happiness (deliverance-Nibbana) through the practice. Practice, practice, what is the practice?

 

013 What am I?

I am the five aggregates. When the five aggregates are deconstructed, the impermanence-suffering-non self of the five aggregates is seen.

It is not that I don’t exist, I am impermanent because ‘I’ changes continuously. Therefore, I am non-self due to lack of eternal essence or inherent existence.

One knows and sees (with the mind) through the practice, the impermanence-suffering-non self, the core of the Buddha’s teaching.

 

014 What am I?

The answer is in the impermanence-suffering-non self, the core of the Buddha’s teaching. One knows and sees (with the mind) the answer through meditation. The Buddha taught three kinds of meditation.

1. Mindfulness meditation (sati)

2. Concentration meditation (samatha)

3. Wisdom meditation (vipassana)

And the whole meditation practice must be grounded in morality (sila).

 

015 What am I?

According to the Buddha’s teaching, one would know the answer through meditation.

Meditation practice must be grounded in morality.

Then, what does he mean by morality?

He said, ordinary human needs to observe the five precepts.

1. Do not harm living things

2. Do not take what is not given

3. Do not commit sexual misconduct

4. Do not lie or gossip

5. Do not drink alcohol

 

016 What am I?

The answer can be obtained through observing the precepts (morality) and meditation.

Then, which meditation should one engage in among mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom meditation?

Within the Buddha’s meditation system, mindfulness meditation is fundamental. Therefore, mindfulness meditation must be practiced first. Practicing concentration (samatha, samadhi, jhana) and wisdom (vipassana) meditation prior to practicing mindfulness meditation would be like building a house without foundation.

 

017 What am I?

The answer can be obtained through observing the precepts (morality) and meditation.

Why is mindfulness meditation fundamental to the Buddhism practice?

There are many reasons. A few important ones are as follows:

• Mindfulness helps in distinguishing wholesome states from unwholesome states.

• Mindfulness (sati) lays the foundation and helps the development of concentration (serenity, jhana) and insight (clearly seeing).

• Clear comprehension (sampajanna) acts as a bridge between the mindfulness’ observational function and the development of insight (vipassana).

 

018 What am I?

Mindfulness meditation is the fundamental of the Buddhism practice.

Then, what is mindfulness meditation?

In short, mindfulness meditation is about being mindful (sati, lucid awareness) and clearly comprehending (sampajanna) the mindfulness object (body, feeling, mind, and experiential phenomena or dhamma).

“I would describe mindfulness as lucid awareness of the phenomenal field.”

“As the practice advances, clear comprehension takes on an increasingly more important role, eventually evolving into direct insight (vipassana) and wisdom (panna)” [What does Mindfulness Really Mean? A Canonical Perspective by Bhikkhu Bodhi]

*I recommend reading Mahasatipatthana Sutta (D22) in addition to other suttas (M118, M119, M10, S47).

 

019 What am I?

The following story is strictly based on my own experience.

I knew why I needed to do mindfulness practice. But once I decided to meditate, it was difficult to find ‘what to do.’ So, I did ‘what I could’ on my own. Recently, I asked for help from Bhikkhu Bodhi. He was kind and gave me detailed instructions on how to practice based on suttas. I am thankful to have received his teaching. I have practiced the following mindfulness practice for the last ten years. I think this method can be easily followed even by busy modern human beings. Of course, it is only one of many ways to practice mindfulness.

• In sitting meditation, I stay mindful (concentration) of in-and-out breath. Otherwise, normally I stay mindful (observation) of whatever is happening in my mind such as feelings, thoughts, etc.

 

020 What am I?

The following story is strictly based on my own experience.

So, what did I gain from the ten-year practice of mindfulness?

1. I am a bit more generous, less angry, and quite a bit nicer.

2. Unexpectedly, it helped to lay a foundation for samatha and vipassana practice.

 

DHAMMA ARAMA

Dhamma Arama, a neighborhood meditation center, is located in South Korea, Jeju-do, Seogwipo city, Shinsigaji (new downtown). It opened its door in September 2016. Owning to Bhikkhu Kakmuk's precious relations with Dhamma Arama, we were blessed to have Bhikkhu Kakmuk's monthly Dhamma talks at Dhamma Arama from September 2016 through December 2017. This lecture series helped to set the stage for Early Buddhism studies and practice on Jeju-do. Since the formation of the Dhamma Arama Study Group, the following activities have taken place on Jeju Island:

1. Weekly meditation meeting on Fridays at Dhamma Arama
2. Annual meditation retreat from September to October at Dama Arama
3. Weekly meditation meeting on Tuesday at Chulli Sanbang
4. Weekend meditation meeting at Muju Seon Center
5. Abhidhamma special lecture series (7) by Bhikkhu Kakmuk at the Halla Jungtowon
6. Monthly study meeting at the Halla Jungtowon (Bhikkhu Kakmuk)
7. Dhamma Arama band formation (Internet)
8. Aranya band formation (Internet)

Nowadays, we can do so much with the Internet. In line with this trend, Dhamma Arama opened this band in August 2017. The good thing about the internet is that conversations among Dhamma friends are possible wherever you are in the world. So, as a result of our constant efforts, 64 Dhamma friends are participating in this band from all over Korea and USA.

What you cannot do on the Internet is meet Dhamma friends and meditate together. For that reason I built the Dhamma Arama neighborhood meditation center. It is a blessing available to very few people to participate in meditation retreats away from home in these busy times. Although it is a good idea to meditate every day even for a short time, it is not easy to find a quiet place and time to meditate in the modern hectic living environment. Therefore, I hope that such meditation centers will be built in every neighborhood.

In sharing the latest news, I hope there will be more meetings or groups formed in 2018. Thank you and have a great day! 

Nancy Acord

Founder

 

 

INTRODUCTION TO EARLY BUDDHISM

Introduction to Early Buddhism was published in Korean and English on October 30, 2017, and October 31, 2017, respectively. It was authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk and translated by Nancy Acord. It is available in paperback in Korean and English in South Korea. It is also available in eBook (Kindle store) and audiobook (Kindle store and Audible) in English.

This introductory book contains a systematic and clear explanation of the core teaching of Early Buddhism. Bhikkhu Kakmuk, a faculty member of the Center for Early Buddhist Studies, explains that to understand Buddhism, one must know the five aggregates, the 12 sense bases, the 18 elements, the Four Noble Truths, the 12 links of dependent origination, the 37 requisites of enlightenment, samatha, vipassana, and the threefold training of morality, concentration, and wisdom. Here these subjects are organized into a useful guide in learning Early Buddhism.

Nibbana Buddhist Education Foundation is providing complimentary copies of the English paperback while supplies last. Please send your request to dhamma.arama@gmail.com. NBEF donates entire sales amount (net of Kindle and Audible charges) of the eBook and audiobook to the Center for Early Buddhist Studies.

 

About the Author   Bhikkhu Kakmuk

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In 1957 Bhikkhu Kakmuk was born in the City of Mil-Yang, South Korea. While attending the Busan National University, majoring in mathematics education, he became a monastic. He received Novice ordination as a student of Bhikkhu Dogwang of Hwa-um-sha in 1979. He received Bhikkhu ordination from Bhikkhu Jaun in 1982.

After seven years of meditation at various traditional seon centers in Korea, he hoped to translate Pāli Tipiṭaka into Korean and left for India to study. For the next ten years, he learned Sanskrit, Pāli, and the Prakrits languages, completed a master’s degree and PhD in the Sanskrit language at Pune University, India. Currently, he is an instructor at the Center for Early Buddhist Studies and also is a professor at the Education Center of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

The publications he translated or authored are Translation of the Diamond Sutra with Explanatory Notes, 2001-2017, 9th printing, Translation of the Abhidhammattha Sangaha, Guidance to the Abhidhamma Manual, Vol.1-2, 2002-2015, 12th printing, revised edition, 2017, co-translated with Bhikkhuni Daerim, Four Kinds of Mindfulness Training, 2003-2013, revised edition, 4th printing, Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya, Vol. 1-3, 2006-2014, 4th printing,  Translation of the Saṁyutta Nikāya, Vol. 1-6, 2009-2016, 3rd printing, Understanding Early Buddhism, 2010-2015, 5th printing, the Collection of Selected Suttas from Nikāyas, Vol. 1-2, 2013-2015, 3rd printing, and Translation of the Dhammasaṅganī, Vol. 1-2, 2016. He also authored numerous theses and articles including The Ganhwa-Seon and Vipassanā, What is the same and different in Seon-Woo-Do-Ryang, 3rd publication, 2003.

He and Bhikkhuni Daerim received the citation from the head of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and the Tenth Daewon Award in 2012 for completing the translation of the four Nikāyas.

Translator  Nancy Acord

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Nancy Acord [a.k.a. Sohn, Dong Ran] was born in Seoul, Korea in 1957 and moved to the United States in 1976. After completing her bachelor’s degree in business administration at California State University in Los Angeles, she worked as a Certified Public Accountant for international accounting firms and as a Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive Officer at a US national healthcare organization. Since retiring from her business career in 2004, she has devoted herself to Buddhist studies. In 2014, she founded the Nibbana Buddhist Education Foundation in the United States.

 

Editor   Mary Garcia Grant

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Mary Garcia Grant started her writing career as a typesetter, proofreader, copy editor and journalist for the Emporia Gazette, the American newspaper brought to prominence by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer William Allen White in Emporia, Kansas. Later she worked at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York City as an editing assistant to scientists who researched global climate change. Her primary study was in violin performance at Rice University in Houston and the City University of New York at Queens College. She has been a violinist with the Kansas City Symphony for 27 years but still enjoys writing and editing.

 

Buddhism as the Science of Enlightenment

불교는 깨달음의 과학.png

Authored by Hwang, Kyung Hwan

Professor Hwang, Kyung Hwan has donated 72 copies of the book, ‘Buddhism as the Science of Enlightenment’ [this book is only available in Korean]. If you would like to have a copy sent to you, please email your request to dhamma.arama@gmail.com. NBEF is providing complimentary copies while supplies last.

Hwang, Kyung Hwan was born in the port of Onsan, the city of Ulsan, South Korea. He graduated from the Dongguk University graduate school with a degree in Ethics Education. For the last three decades [since 1977] he has been active in the Korean Institute for Buddhist Studies as a director and a research fellow. Currently, he is a senior research fellow at the Center for Early Buddhist Studies. Since 1980 he has been an active member of the People to People International. He was a president of the Korea Center for People to People International in 1996 and 1997.

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  • 13th President of the Korea Center for People to People International
  • Director and Research Fellow of the Korean Institute for Buddhist Studies
  • CEO of the Ulsan Buddhist Broadcasting System
  • Senior Research Fellow of the Center for Early Buddhist Studies
  • President of the Right Buddhist Practice Forum
  • Professor of the Dongguk University Continuing Education Center (Gyeong-ju campus)
  • CEO of the Jinyang Tanker CO., LTD
  • CEO of the Gyeong-ju ICS
  • Heart Sutra with Explanatory Notes | Authored by Kim, Sa Cheol and Hwang, Kyung Hwan
  • Research Paper - A Study on the Ethical Nature of Silla Buddhism | Authored by Hwang, Kyung Hwan
 

Basic Mindfulness Practice

  1. Like salt is needed in all dishes, mindfulness practice is always needed in the Buddhist practice.
  2. Mindfulness is the practice of being mindful of an object. In other words, the mind is aware of what is happening to one’s body and mind at the present moment. One should not let the mind lean towards past or future. Therefore, the first prompt does not lead to the secondary response.
  3. “Here, as a trainer of a calf would tie the calf to a post with a rope one must tie one’s mind firmly to the object with mindfulness.” (DA.iii.763)
  4. If one is not familiar with mindfulness practice, it may be helpful to put a name to a mindfulness object at first and then strive to get familiar with the mindfulness practice.
  5. Mindfulness practice can be done anytime.
  6. In doing the Anapanasati practice (mindfulness practice of in-and-out breathing) one stays mindful of the place the breath touches.
  7. In the beginning, one may not even be able to focus seconds due to all sorts of thoughts and bodily discomforts. However, as one stays mindful of what is happening to one’s mind and body, various distractions will gradually disappear and one’s ability to focus will grow. These distractions will be reduced gradually by being mindful of bodily discomforts and thoughts about past and future.
  8. For the further detail explanations about mindfulness practice, please read ‘Four Kinds of Mindfulness Training’ by Bhikkhu Kakmuk.
 

Practicing Early Buddhism: Absorption Concentration and Momentary Concentration

The Buddha explained that concentration is ‘one-pointedness of mind [cittassa ekaggataa]’ in many discourses. The commentaries explained this one-pointedness as an object (PsA.230) and the object of mind nearing concentration as a counterpart sign [paṭibhāga-nimitta].

Samatha is a state in which the mind is focused on an object called a sign. According to all the commentary literature including the Path of Purification, such concentration is developed through access-concentration [upacāra-samādhi] and absorption-concentration [appanā-samādhi]. (Vis.IV.31-33) The Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma explains the concentration practice in further detail as preparatory, access, and absorption concentration. 

First, the preparatory practice is the elementary practice done prior to the arising of access-concentration. Specifically, the preparatory practice is the state up to or immediately prior to the arising of a counterpart sign while the five hindrances are suppressed. Access-concentration occurs when the five hindrances are suppressed and from the time a counterpart sign appears, immediately prior to the arising of the mind of gotrabhū,[1]  while entering the state of jhāna. The absorption-concentration is the mind that arises right after the mind of gotrabhū; it means the states of the first jhāna through the fourth jhāna.

Unlike this, vipassanā is a practice that enables one to see clearly the momentary arising and passing away of dhamma and is not a practice in which one focuses on a sign; therefore, a counterpart sign does not arise. Since a counterpart sign does not arise, there is no absorption-concentration in the vipassanā practice. Of course, without a high level of concentration, it is impossible to see an object thoroughly as impermanent, suffering, and non-self. Therefore, the high level of concentration during the vipassanā practice cannot be called absorption-concentration. The commentary literature such as the Path of Purification calls the high level of concentration that occurs during the vipassanā practice momentary-concentration [khaṇika-samādhi].

The Path of Purification calls the practitioner who does not practice samatha first but practices vipassanā right away, a ‘dry vipassanā practitioner’ or a ‘pure vipassanā practitioner.’ Momentary-concentration is a highly-focused state that occurs during this pure vipassanā practice; it is said to be equal to access-concentration or comparable to the first jhāna of the samatha practice. Thus, there is a basis for concentration in the vipassanā practice.

 

Concentration is the mind being focused on one-pointedness. The concentration achieved through samatha is called access-concentration or absorption-concentration; the high-level concentration of vipassanā is called momentary-concentration.

[Introduction to Early Buddhism authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk and translated by Nancy Acord]

 

[1] The gotrabhū is one who has entered the lineage of the Noble Ones.

 

Practicing Early Buddhism: Comparison of Samatha and Vipassanā

Examining samatha and vipassanā by comparison from several perspectives shows the following:

First, in both samatha or vipassanā, it is imperative to establish the meditation object clearly. Seeing from the mundane state, the object of samatha is a sign [nimitta][1], a concept [paññatti]. The object of vipassanā is phenomena [dhamma]. This is the most important measuring stick to distinguish samatha from vipassanā.

Second, samatha is a practice of developing concentration by focusing on an object—a sign. Vipassanā is a practice of seeing, with insight, the impermanence·suffering·non-self of the conditioned phenomena. Samatha is the serene state of mind achieved by concentrating the mind on a sign and steadying tremors and disturbances of the mind. Therefore, in Chinese, it is translated as 止 [concentration]. With vipassanā, one does not see the object from a conventional mode but sees the impermanence·suffering·non-self, the characteristics of dhamma, with insight, in accordance with vipassanā’s literal meaning of ‘deconstruct [vi] and see [passanā].’ Therefore, in Chinese, it is translated as 觀 [seeing].

Third, the key word for samatha is a sign and the key words for vipassanā are the impermanence·suffering·non-self. In the Path of Purification, there are 40 meditation objects of concentration. If one takes a narrow definition of the samatha practice as a practice to obtain absorption-concentration (M.A.ii.346), samatha is about taking one object among the 22 meditation objects of the 40 meditation objects, then one concentrates the mind on it and creates a learning sign [uggaha-nimitta] from the object. Eventually this learning sign is purified into a counterpart sign [patibhāga-nimitta] that does not scatter and becomes whole. At this point, the mind is extremely focused on this counterpart sign each and every moment. Vipassanā is a practice of seeing with insight one of the 71 ultimate realities that are further classified as mind, mental factors, and materiality. In this way, when one sees the dhamma with insight, the impermanence·suffering·non-self can be clearly seen.

Fourth, there are different kinds of concentration: the concentration attained through samatha is access-concentration [upacāra-samādhi] or absorption-concentration [appanā-samādhi]; intense concentration attained during vipassanā practice is momentary-concentration [khanika-samādhi].

Fifth, deliverance·Nibbāna cannot be realized through the serenity of samatha only. Because samatha is a state in which the mind and the meditation object become one, the lust·hatred·delusion are suppressed and lie dormant by clear and bright serenity. However, once one is out of samatha, the lust·hatred·delusion’s influence returns.  This state is called ‘temporarily liberated’ [samaya-vimutta] in the discourses. (A5:149) Therefore, the lust·hatred·delusion must be eradicated through the power of vipassanā that clearly sees the impermanence·suffering·non-self with insight. As a result, those taints will not arise again and deliverance·Nibbāna can be realized.

Without the wisdom of vipassanā, deliverance is impossible. However, it is definitely not easy to obtain the wisdom of vipassanā without the aid of samatha. Therefore, in the Early Buddhist discourses, the technical terms like samatha and vipassanā almost always appear together. The Buddha emphasized practicing these two diligently.

Sixth, whether one should practice samatha first, vipassanā first, or practice both simultaneously is ultimately up to one’s teacher or one’s own interest and preference. In the In Conjunction Discourse, the Buddha said all states from first jhāna to ‘cessation of perception and feeling’ become firm bases for the attainment of Arahantship. (A4:170) Of course, one who practices dry vipassanā [sukkah-vipassaka], in other words, pure vipassanā [suddha-vipassaka] can only obtain the Arahantship by practicing the dry vipassanā without the moisture of jhāna.[2] (DA.i.4)

In conclusion, one may practice samatha first, vipassanā first, or samatha and vipassanā simultaneously. Saying that one must practice samatha first or vipassanā first is a mere dogmatic opinion; one cannot be called a true practitioner while insisting so. In any circumstances, the important matter is that the Buddhist practice always ends up in vipassanā, insight of the impermanence·suffering·non-self. Vipassanā mentioned here is seeing clearly the impermanence·suffering·non-self and does not refer to any special specific practice method.

 

Samatha is a practice in which one focuses on an object called a sign and develops concentration. Vipassanā is a practice in which one sees clearly the impermanence·suffering·non-self of dhamma and develops insight.

[Introduction to Early Buddhism authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk and translated by Nancy Acord]

[1] Nimittas refer to signs or images.

[2] The ‘moisture of jhāna’ means the rapture and happiness of jhāna.

[3] The gotrabhū is one who has entered the lineage of the Noble Ones.

 

 

 

Practicing Early Buddhism: Samatha and Vipassanā, the Buddha’s Direct Teaching

Samatha and vipassanā are the representative technical terms of the Buddhist practice. They are the core technical terms that illustrate most clearly the practice system of Theravada Buddhism. Early on, these two technical terms were translated as 止 [concentration] and 觀 [seeing] in Chinese.

The important literary works of Bhikkhu Yeongga Hyeongak [永嘉玄覺], a direct disciple of the Sixth Patriarch Venerable Huineng [慧能] and also the famous author of Jeungdo Ga [Song of Actualizing the Way], include Seonjong Yeongga Jip [禪宗永嘉集]. This book has ten chapters in all. The core of the practice section is three chapters: chapter four, titled Samatha; chapter five, titled Vipassanā; and chapter six, titled Upekkhā[1].

Therefore, we know that samatha and vipassanā were deeply understood in China early on. It has been taught that these practices—concentration [samatha] and insight [vipassanā]—should be done in tandem. This practice has been translated as 止觀兼修 [practicing samatha and vipassanā together]. In Seon Jong[2] [Chan Jong or Zen], it has come to be understood as 定慧雙修 [practicing samatha and vipassanā together] through the generations.

Then, this begs the question, did the Buddha personally expounded on samatha and vipassanā in the Early Buddhist discourses? How did the Buddha define samatha and vipassanā?

The Buddha clearly defines samatha and vipassanā in many of the Early Buddhist discourses. In the Fools Discourse (A2:3:11) of the Aṅguttara Nikāya the Buddha definitely connects samatha with concentration [samadhi] and vipassanā with insight [paññā]. He clarifies that concentration is a practice one uses to overcome desire and insight is a practice one uses to overcome ignorance.

The Concentration Discourse of the Aṅguttara Nikāya supplies clear answers regarding samatha and vipassanā. The expressions of ‘internal serenity of mind’ and ‘higher wisdom of insight,’ are seen in these three discourses (A4:92-94). Samatha is a practice of developing serenity or having serenity. Vipassanā is a practice of developing insight or having insight.

The Concentration Discourse explains that in order to obtain samatha, one can approach another who gained internal serenity of mind and inquire, “How, friend, should the mind be steadied? How should the mind be composed? How should the mind be unified? How should the mind be concentrated?” (A4:94)

The Buddha explains that in order to obtain vipassanā, one can approach another who gained the higher wisdom of insight into conditioned phenomena and inquire, “How, friend, should conditioned phenomena be seen? How should conditioned phenomena be explored? How should conditioned phenomena be discerned by insight?” (A4:94)

The Buddha had clearly shown samatha is a practice to develop concentration by fixing the mind on an object and achieving serenity; vipassanā is a practice to contemplate and observe conditioned phenomena [saṇkhāra] allowing one to clearly see

the impermance.suffering.non-self of conditioned phenomena.

The commentary literature describes samatha and vipassanā separately as mundane samatha [lokiya-samatha], supramundane samatha [lokuttara-samatha], mundane vipassanā [lokiya-vipassanā], and supramundane vipassanā [lokuttara-vipassanā]. (SA.iii.21; Pm.15; MAT.i.238, etc.) Concentration and insight are also described separately as mundane concentration, supramundane concentration, mundane insight, and supramundane insight. (DA.ii.425; UdA.69, etc.) The supramundane [lokuttara] takes Nibbāna as its meditation object (Vis.XIV.15, etc.). The mundane [lokiya] does not take Nibbāna as its meditation object.

For those who have not experienced the path and the fruit, I would like to clarify the fact that samatha and vipassanā discussed in this entire book is about the practice of mundane samatha and mundane vipassanā—the practice to experience the path and the fruit and to realize Nibbāna. The supramundane samatha and vipassanā are not included here. The mundane samatha and vipassanā—the practice of experiencing the path and fruit and realizing Nibbāna—are meaningful and relevant to us. Also, the explanations including the supramundane can make samatha and vipassanā a controversial debate at the slightest slip of interpretation.

 

In the Early Buddhist discourses, the Buddha clearly defined samatha and vipassanā. Samatha is a practice of developing concentration to bring serenity of mind. Vipassanā is a practice of exploring conditioned phenomena to clearly see the impermanence·suffering·non-self with insight.

[Introduction to Early Buddhism authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk and translated by Nancy Acord]

[1] Upekkhā means equanimity.

[2] Seon Jong is a representive order of Korean Buddhism.

 

Practicing Early Buddhism: Practicing Mindfulness of In-and-Out Breathing

Practice of Early Buddhism: Practicing Mindfulness of In-and-Out Breathing

Among the 21 meditation objects, in-and-out breathing [ānāpāna] is mentioned first. In Chinese, in-and-out breathing has been transliterated as 安般 [ān-pán] and translated as 出入息 [inhalation and exhalation]. In the Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse (M118, the Ānāpānasati Discourse) in-and-out breathing appears as an independent subject. The Connected Discourses on Breathing (S54, the Ānāpānasaṁyutta Discourse) contains 20 discourses in all. Certainly, in-and-out breathing is a meditation object that deserves special attention.

Through what kind of practice did the Buddha obtain liberation? What method did he, himself, practice? The commentary to the Greater Discourse to Saccaka (M36, the Mahāsaccaka Discourse) of the Majjhima Nikāya describes the journey of the Buddha’s attainment of liberation. In it, the Buddha concluded that the first jhāna [that he obtained through being ‘mindful of in-and-out breathing’] is the way to obtain liberation.

In the Greater Discourse of Advice to Rāhula (M62), the Buddha teaches his only son, the Venerable Rāhula this mindfulness practice of in-and-out breathing. Various commentaries mention that the Venerable Ananda and other distinguished direct disciples of the

Buddha also obtained the Arahantship through the mindfulness practice of in-and-out breathing. Furthermore, in the commentary of the Dīgha Nikāya, it is explained that all Buddhas, self-enlightened ones [Pratyeka-Buddha], and direct disciples of the Buddha enjoy happiness in the present life by establishing mindfulness of in-and-out breathing. (DA.iii.763) Indeed, mindfulness of in-and-out breathing has a very special place within the Buddhist practice.

In the Path of Purification, the indisputable authority of Theravada Buddhism, mindfulness of in-and-out breathing is explained in detail. In the Path of Purification, the 16-step stock phrase explains the mindfulness practice of in-and-out breathing. (Vis.VIII.145) This stock phrase appears in all discourses of the Connected Discourses on Breathing [the Ānāpānasaṁyutta Discourse] as follows:

 

1.       “Breathing in long, he knows: ‘I breathe in long’; or breathing out long, he knows: ‘I breathe out long.’

2.       Breathing in short, he knows: ‘I breathe in short’; or breathing out short, he knows: ‘I breathe out short.’

3.       He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body.’

4.       He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in tranquilizing the bodily formations’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out tranquilizing the bodily formations.’

5.       He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing happiness’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing happiness.’

6.       He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing bliss’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing bliss.’

7.       He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the mental formations’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the mental formations.’

8.       He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in tranquilizing the mental

formations’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out tranquilizing the mental formations.’

9.       He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the [manner of] consciousness’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the [manner of] consciousness.’

10.   He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in gladdening the [manner of] consciousness’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out gladdening the [manner of] consciousness.’

11.   He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in concentrating the [manner of] consciousness’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out concentrating the [manner of] consciousness.’

12.   He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in liberating the [manner of] consciousness’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out liberating the [manner of] consciousness.’

13.   He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in contemplating impermanence’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out contemplating impermanence.’

14.   He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in contemplating fading away’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out contemplating fading away.’

15.   He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in contemplating cessation’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out contemplating cessation.’ 

16.   He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in contemplating relinquishment’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out contemplating relinquishment.’”

 

Of these, 1 through 4 apply to body; 5 through 8 apply to feeling; 9 through 12 apply to consciousness; and 13 through 16 apply to mental objects of the four foundations of mindfulness.

In the Path of Purification, it is explained that “the first tetrad is set forth as a meditation object for a beginner. The other three tetrads are set forth as the contemplation of feeling, of consciousness, and of mental objects, for one who has already attained jhāna.” (Vis.VIII.186)

Specifically, in the Path of Purification, this mindfulness practice of in-and-out breathing is explained as “eight stages: 1) counting, 2) connexion, 3) touching, 4) fixing, 5) observing, 6) turning away, 7) purification, and 8) looking back on these.” (Vis.VIII.189)

This teaching correlates with the six steps of mindfulness practice as outlined in the Great Ānāpānasmṛti Discourse translated by Bhikkhu An Shigao:[1] 1) counting, 2) pursuing, 3) concentration, 4) observation, 5) the turning away, and 6) purification. This important teaching is also comparable to the six steps—1) counting, 2) following, 3) fixing, 4) contemplation, 5) shifting, and 6) purification—and 16 aspects of in-and-out breathing of the Discourse on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation (坐禪三昧經, the Zuochan Sanmei Jing) translated by Bhikkhu Kumurajiva.

In the Path of Purification, mindfulness of in-and-out breathing is explained in detail: “He fixes his mindfulness on the place touched (by the breaths).” (Vis.VIII 194) This is the most important explanation regarding the mindfulness of in-and-out breathing practice. This also is the foundation of the practice taught in various Early Buddhism meditation centers of Myanmar, southeast asia, etc.

[Introduction to Early Buddhism authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk and translated by Nancy Acord]

The mindfulness of in-and-out breathing practice

has a special place in the Buddhism practice.

The Buddha became enlightened through this practice,

many direct disciples of the Buddha attained the Arahantship through this practice,

all Buddhas, and self-enlightened ones (Pratyeka-Buddha)[2] became enlightened through this practice.

[Introduction to Early Buddhism authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk and translated by Nancy Acord]

 

 

[1] Bhikkhu An Shigao [148-180 CE] translated many Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese.

[2] A Pratyeka-Buddha attains enlightenment through his own efforts, but does not teach Dhamma to others.

 

Practicing Early Buddhism: The Main Focus of Mindfulness Practice

The main points of mindfulness practice are as follows:

First, the object of mindfulness is oneself. It is important to be mindful of the phenomena that are occurring inside of oneself. Those things that occur outside of oneself do not have a great deal of meaning because deliverance·Nibbāna is something one achieves from within.

The Mahāsatipaṭṭāna Discourse (D22), among others, said to divide oneself into body, feeling, mind, and mental objects and then further subdivide these into 14, nine, 16, and five types, respectively, or 44 objects in total. Then, select only one of these objects. Of course, he said, one could select an object of mindfulness from another’s body, feeling, mind, and mental objects (D22, etc.) using the same method. However, the starting point is always oneself.

Second, most important is deconstruction of conceptual [paññatti] entities. The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness (D22) points out the Buddha’s reason for deconstructing the objects of mindfulness into body, feeling, mind, and mental objects. The dhamma with the general characteristics of the impermanence·suffering·non-self will appear clearly when conceptual entities such as ‘I’, mine, mountain, river, computer, automobile, the universe, etc. are deconstructed. Once the impermanence·suffering·non-self of the dhamma are seen, craving and ignorance for those entities should not arise.

Deconstruction is important. The being of ‘I’ is at the core of deconstruction. Sentient beings presume a true-self and then want to grab onto the unchanging true-self. This is the greatest clinging among all clingings. If something is not deconstructed, one gets fooled by conceptual entities. When one deconstructs and sees the dhamma, then one realizes deliverance·Nibbāna, here and now.

Third, the object is important to mindfulness. The Buddha’s suggestion in the Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness [the Mahāsatipaṭṭāna Discourse] to deconstruct ‘I’ into body, feeling, mind, and mental objects and to further deconstruct these into 21 or 44 types of mindfulness objects is significant.

If one pursues the question ‘Who or what am I?’ while ‘I’ is left as a conceptual being, then one can fall into a false notion of the true self, the genuine self, and the great self. Which will lead to inversions of perception as the self being permanent, pleasurable, existing, and attractive [常樂我淨]. However, when ‘I’ is deconstructed as body, feeling, mind, and mental objects and is seen with insight, impermanence, suffering, non-self, and unattractiveness [無常, 苦, 無我, 不淨] would be deeply felt. As a result, one will realize the revulsion-dispassion-deliverance-knowledge of liberation. [Introduction to Early Buddhism, P89]

Fourth, samatha[1] and vipassanā[2] are unified by mindfulness. The practice of Buddhism is largely classified into samatha and vipassanā. Samatha practice is synonymous with the concentration practice and has been translated as止 [di] in Chinese. Vipassanā practice is synonymous with the insight practice and has been translated as觀 [kwan] in Chinese. Samatha-vipassanā [di-kwan] is the practice that has sustained Chinese Buddhism.

Without mindfulness, neither concentration nor insight practices are possible. Samatha takes a sign, a conceptual [paññatti] entity, as an object. Vipassanā takes dhamma that arises and perishes moment-to-moment as an object. Regardless of the object, without mindfulness there cannot be samatha that concentrates on a sign nor vipassanā that sees clearly into the impermanence·suffering·non-self of dhamma.

Mindfulness, very important mental formations, is common to both kinds of practices. Therefore, it is emphasized in the Fire Discourse, “But mindfulness, bhikkhus, I say is always useful.” (S46:53)

Fifth, it is concluded in the Connected Discourses on the Foundations of Mindfulness [the Satipatthāna-Saṁyutta Discourse] and the Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness [the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Discourse] that one must obtain the highest knowledge [aññā] by observing the Four Noble Truths. Among the three characteristics [impermanence·suffering·non-self] of all conditioned phenomena, by clearly knowing the characteristic of the suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the way leading to the cessation of suffering, one can realize deliverance·Nibbāna.    According to the Path of Purification, there are three gateways to liberation. These are the impermanence·suffering·non-self.

“When one who has great resolution brings [formations] to mind as impermanent, one acquires the signless liberation. When one who has great tranquility brings [them] to mind as suffering, he acquires the desireless liberation. When one who has great wisdom brings [them] to mind as non-self, he acquires the void liberation.” (Vis.XXI.70)

Therefore, the practice of mindfulness concludes in the desireless liberation through insight of suffering. According to Early Buddhist discourses, thoroughly observing the Four Noble Truths is the way to obtain the liberation and the realization of Nibbāna.

“Bhikkhus, these four foundations of mindfulness, when developed and cultivated, lead to utter revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.” (S47:32, the Dispassion Discourse)

The object of mindfulness is ‘I.’ Being mindful of phenomena unfolding within ‘I’ is important because deliverance·Nibbāna is something ‘I’ achieve from within.

[Introduction to Early Buddhism authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk and translated by Nancy Acord]

 

[1] Samatha is concentration meditation practice.

[2] Vipassanā is insight meditation practice.

 

What is Early Buddhism?

   Early Buddhism is following the original teaching of the Buddha and his direct disciples. Subsequent to the Buddha’s passing, the rules of conduct were recited by the Venerable Upāli[1] and compiled as the Collection of Rules of Conduct [the Vinaya-Piṭaka]. Dhamma was memorized by the Venerable Ānanda[2] and compiled as the Collection of Discourses [the Sutta-Piṭaka].

   Early Buddhism is grounded in the teachings of the Pāli Tipiṭaka—the five volumes of the Collection of Rules of Conduct, the five Nikāyas of the Collection of Discourses, and the seven volumes of the Abhidhamma.[3] Historically, the Nikāyas of Southern Theravada Buddhism and the Āgama Discourse [Chinese translation] of Northern Buddhism are the clear authorities of Early Buddhism. 

Early Buddhism that contains the historical Sākyamuni Buddha’s direct teaching is the Buddha’s authentic voice and the root of Buddhism.[Introduction to Early Buddhism authored by Bhikkhu Kakmuk and translated by Nancy Acord]

 

[1] The Venerable Upāli is one of the ten principal direct disciples of the Buddha.

[2] The Venerable Ānanda is one of the ten principal direct disciples of the Buddha.

[3] The Abhidhamma is a detailed scholastic reworking of material appearing in the Early Buddhist discourses.

 

Recommended Books

  • Introduction to Early Buddhism by Bhikkhu Kakmuk
  • What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada by Walpola Rahula
  • The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon by Bhikkhu Nanamoli
  • A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha (Vipassana Meditation and the Buddha's Teachings) by Bhikkhu Bodhi
  • Dhammapada, a collection of verses; being one of the canonical books of the Buddhists by Various
  • Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy (The Teachings of the Buddha) by Nyanaponika
  • Aṅguttara Nikāya
  • Dīgha Nikāya
  • Majjhima Nikāya
  • Saṁyutta Nikāya
  • Visuddhimagga