(A Talk given at London Vihara in Cheswick
on 8th September 1973)
Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya
There are three stages of defilements of mind. By defilements we mean the unwholesome states of mind such as lust, anger and so on. We know from our experience that we feel that those defilements are not always manifest in our heart. But there is potentiality that they may rise up within us at times. This state of their potentiality is called the dormant stage of defilements. Suppose a man comes to your presence and starts abusing you calling names. Certainly you might get shocked and angry, though you do not say or do nothing to him. Though you keep silent, there might be anger risen within you. This is the second stage, the stage of uprisen defilements. At times, on such an occasion, you might grow so rough that you could not control your anger and you would translate it into action by scolding him or by beating him. This is the third and worst stage of defilements, at which your anger is put to action. It is when the mental defilements surge up to this third stage that man would commit crimes of various sort.
The purpose of following the path pointed out by the Lord Buddha is to curb and dispel these defilements and to purge one’s mind of all those unwholesome characteristics.
Let us see how we should start this process of self-purification. The dormant stage of defilements is not easy to handle at the start as it is very subtle. The second stage, the stage of manifestation of passions in heart though less subtle than the first one, is, too, not easy to handle as they work only within the heart. The third stage of defilements, at which one commits evil deeds is evident to everybody, and, so it is at this stage we should start our religious practice. In every walk of life we should proceed guided by proper understanding and being ever mindful. Thus we have to use our reason and understand the contemptibility and evil effects of doing wrong deeds and determine to abstain from committing them. By following this way, we will be able to control our mind and curb out temper so far that we may not transgress the laws of morality.
Though we, following this way, do not commit any bad deed, still defilements might rise now and then within us whenever our mind is disturbed and affected by some external objects. By trying to abstain from wrong speech and so on we bring defilements under a certain amount of control so that their violence is checked. But those defilements are in their second or the upsurging stage, and might possibly rise up in heart now and the. If we are not vigilant enough there is a possibility that they may be violent and rise up to the stage of transgression. So we should try to prevent those defilements even from rising in the heart. For this purpose we should investigate and find out the cause of their rise. If we do not control our mind and allow it to stray carelessly after this or that object, it is natural that the dormant passions may find opportunity to rise up. So we have to keep our mind from running astray. For this purpose we have to develop right concentration. We have to fix our mind on some ideal or good object which keeps it from straying. According to Buddhist scriptures there are 40 objects out of which one is to be selected suitable to one’s temperament and by fixing mind on it the concentration must be developed.
This practice being continued, all passions remain inhibited and find no opportunity to arise. They remain only in their dormant and potential stage. If we neglect or stop our practice of concentration, again mind might stray and passions would find opportunity to arise. So what we have to do now is to deal with the potential stage of defilements. The cause of the potentiality for rise of passions is our own ignorance or nescience of the exact nature of life. So we have to use our reason, faculty of investigation at this stage. It is due to lack of understanding as to what we really are that unwholesome states arise within us. This lack of understanding is Avijja as it is called in Pali. Avijja means nescience, ignorance, the mist of delusion that enshrouds our mind’s eye.
In this third stage of practice, at the start, we should try to examine what the so called ‘man’ or ‘living being’ is. We would find we have a body and mind. First, we have to understand our body. From our experience we would perceive that our body is nothing but a mass of matter, which is subject to growth and decay. One day we see an infant and after two or three years we see the little thing has grown bigger. But we do not see when and at which moment this growth has taken place. It is always growing. When it is grown old the process of decaying begins and goes on and on. This growing and decaying happens continually though we don’t see or feel it. This means that our body is subject to momentary change.
If we mentally analyse our body we may find that it is a mass of ever changing molecules. If we go on searching further, we would come at last to the conclusion that it is but a volume of vibrations. We see that there is nowhere in our body an unchanging entity, a substance, a self or soul to be owned as “I” or “Mine”. Thus we have come to the right understanding with regard to our body.
After realizing the exact nature of our body, we should come to our mind. If we carefully examine and analyse our mind, we would see how mind-units together with their allied mental characteristics rise and vanish and how every vanishing state is succeeded, leaving no gap, by another relevant mental state. We have to make this search and go deeper and deeper and consequently we would come to the conclusion that what we call mind is not any substance but a process of thinkings or thoughts or mind-units momentarily appearing and disappearing and that their changing nature is faster than that of matters in the body. We would see that there is nothing even in mind to be taken for a substance or ego-entity. This self-examination is to be done on body and mind by turns continually till the exact nature of mind-body process becomes very clear and evident. We have to this till we become thoroughly convinced of its real nature.
Finally the Right understanding of ourself will come to its consummation and the witching darkness of nescience will pass away so that never after that it will be able to enshroud our mind’s eye. The function of removing nescience comes to its perfection through four stages namely, Sotapatti (Stream-entrance), Sakadagami (Once-returner’s stage), Anagami (Non-Returner’s stage) and Arahatta (Perfection). In these four stages the factors of the Path, Right Understanding and so on, unitedly perform their functions for realizing the Four Great Truths, developing themselves, until they reach the consummation of their work at Arahantship (Perfection).
In this procedure the violent stage of mental defilements is controlled by the practice of good conduct or keeping precepts (Seela). The second one, the upsurging stage of defilements is controlled by practising right concentration (Samadhi). The dormant stage of defilements is overcome and the cause of all defilements is eradicated by self-analysis and self-investigation (Development of Panna or perfect understanding).
Thus the Path of Buddhism, consisting of Seela, Samadhi and Panna, removes and destroys all mental defilements or passions by degrees and makes the Path-goer entirely pure and perfect and frees from all turmoils and sufferings.
1 – Four Kinds of persons
(A digest of a talk given at London Vihara on 9. 1. 83)
In a pond there are four kinds of lotuses some standing and rising up out of the water, grown enough to open at the first touch of sun’s rays, some standing up though risen out of the water yet taking one or more days to mature and open at the touch of sun’s rays, a third kind of lotuses which are still buds and having reached the surface of the water and to take many more days to rise out of water and open up. Yet there are still more lotuses that grow inside the water and thriving immersed, of which one cannot be assured whether they will grow in safety or be eaten up by watery animals like tortoises.
Thus, as the four kinds of lotuses to be seen, in a pond, there are four classes of people in the world whom the Lord Buddha has named as Ugghatitannu, Vipancitannu, Neyya and Padaparama. Out of them Ugghatitannu are the people with acute faculties who are able to realize truths immediately when they listen to a short exposition of a Buddha or an Arahant. They are so quick in realization of Truth like the first disciple of the Lord Buddha the Elder Kondanna. Such are quick-witted, the first grade of the Buddha’s disciples like the fully grown lotuses which bloom up at the first touch of sun’s rays.
Some persons are not capable to realize truth immediately at the first hearing of a short discourse and they require some explanation to some extent. When they listen to a detailed exposition of Truths they would realize them and they are like lotuses which bloom up after two or three days’ touch of sun’s rays. The Bhaddavaggiya-princes who listened to the Lord’s detailed exposition of Truths could attain realization and they belong to the second grade of people known as Vipancitannau. Vipancita means ‘little delayed’ or ‘after a short description’.
Those 30 prince of the country of Magadha went on a picnic. 29 of them had married and the younger had no wife. So they persuaded one prostitute in the town to be his mate for the time being and had gone to a park and had been amusing for some time. Meanwhile the prostitute, finding a chance, took some of their belongings and bolted through the forest. The princes and their wives were in search of the woman and casually met the Lord sitting under a tree by the roadside. They asked Him whether He saw a woman passing that way. The Lord asked why they were in a search of a woman and they related the whole account. Thereupon the Lord asked: “Which is better either to make a search of oneself or to make a search of others?” They said “It is more important to make a search of oneself”.
“Do you know how to search yourselves?” asked the Lord. They said they did not know. “Then sit down and I will teach you how to search yourselves”. They sat down and the Lord explained to them the nature of life in some details and at the close of His teaching, all of them realized Truths and became his disciples.
Neyya re the third class of people. Neyya means one who is to be coached for or to be guided, to be trained for some time. There are some persons who are to be guided in their practice of virtues, in practice of both Samatha and Vipassana (development both of concentration and insight).
Padaparamas and the fourth class of people are those who are not sufficiently mature in their spiritual development to realize truths in the very same life. They have to pass some more lives till they develop themselves by means of practising virtues. Meanwhile if they, due to bad association and the like go along a wrong path they will have to suffer long even in millions of rounds of rebirths and thsu they are in an uncertain situation. They are like the lotus buds inside water which at any time would be a prey to water animals. The majority of people belong to this fourth class and if they understand their uncertain situation and live pure religious life with strong determination and firm aspiration they would probably be able to attain to full realization at the feet of the coming Buddha Lord Maitreya, supposing they could not attain it during the period in which the Teaching of the Lord Gautama continues to exist.
2 – Four factors of self-progress
(A talk given at Dharmavijaya Vihara on 13 Nov. 1983)
(Digest of the Talk)
Four things bring a person to his progress in wealth and worldly progress. What are the four? Life in a suitable place, association with good people, establishment of oneself on a proper way and that he has previously done good deeds.
Let us now consider each of these four factors and try to understand how they would conduce us to our progress.
The first one is living in a suitable place. What is meant here by the words ‘suitable place?’ It is said in many places in our literature that where there are the six excellences are present, at hand or within reach, such a place is suitable to live in. The six excellences (Anuttariyas) are the excellent sight (dassananuttariya), excellent hearing (savannanuttariya), the excellent training or discipline (sikkahanuttariya), excellent gain (labhanuttariya), excellent service (paricariyanuttariya), and excellent reminiscence (annusatanuttariya).
There are sights which would please your senses which you may regard as worth seeing. That is why most of you are tempted to go to cinemas and the like. But the sights which make you slave to our lust after it, or that which rouse your hidden weaknesses, which create excitation within you or which disturb your heart’s composure and do the like are to be avoided as they would provoke you into falling down to mental enslavement. It is such sights which cause lust, anger, jealousy, self-conceit and the like to arise in your heart. Those sight which bring you religious devotion, kindness, compassion, forbearance, wisdom, and such other blessings into your heart are worth having as they are beneficial to you in every aspect. If you see a saintly person, naturally you feel attracted to his ways, his behaviour and such a sight makes you happy and serene and healthy in mind. Sight of such persons teach you many lessons and it may be an inspiration to you. A place where we may have acquaintance with saintly and exemplary persons is a proper place one should choose for one’s living.
Whatever we hear that leads us to our inner development is the excellent hearing. That which we hear would disturb our heart’s peace is not worth hearing. The place at which we find no good hearing is not to be lived in. The place where people are not cultured and lacking discipline should be avoided as a man living in such an environment may happen to face much disturbance to his self-progress secular or moral.
A man must have progress in his worldly affairs but at the same time he should not neglect his spiritual progress. A place where there is no means or opportunity for a person to develop himself morally or spiritually is not a suitable one to choose for one’s living.
A man must have someone to guide him spiritually whom he should associate with and serve as his ideal. A place where there are no such persons to be found is not a suitable one to live in.
Reminiscence of holy or saintly persons is greatly helpful to one’s progress and places where such reminiscences are belittled, undervalued or misprized are to be avoided and left behind.
The second of the flour factors is having good association. The third is establishing oneself in the proper way and the fourth one is that one has previously done good deeds.
3 – Samatha meditation and First Jhana
(A Talk given at Washington Vihara on 27th October 1990)
Cittena niyati loko (the world is led by mind) is a saying of the Lord Buddha. The mind well controlled is the most helpful friend and if it is uncontrolled and allowed to stray, it would certainly turn the most dangerous enemy. It is the mind well controlled and tamed that would bring us peace and happiness (Cittam dantam sukhavaham).
The way of taming and controlling mind is called Samtha-bhavana.
Mind naturally requires an object to fix itself on. Weakness, strength, health or ill-health, happiness or sorrow – all these states depend on the objects of mind and on the way it fixes itself on them. The Buddha has given 38 objects for the development of mind’s peace and the commentators have added two more thus all coming into 40 objects and hence he has to select one of the 40 that suits his temperament.
A man who prepares himself for a practice of this kind must first of all be of morally good character, as it is the basis or ground on which self development is founded. Physically too he must be healthy and at the same time he must be free of all responsibilities. His aim must be for the attainment of mind’s peace. He must find a suitable place for his practice which should be secluded and free of disturbances.
As it takes much time to give the details of all the 40 objects, I will explain now, as an illustration, the way how to develop concentration on one of the 40 objects.
Suppose the meditator choses a yellow flower, a bunch of yellow flowers or a bed of yellow flowers and fixes his mind on it under the proper instruction of an expert teacher. If he develops one-pointedness of his mind depending on the said object he would be able to attain to higher stages of mind’s calm called Jhanas.
The method he has to follow is this: He should sit on a comfortable seat with his backbone straight. He should keep the flower or the bunch of flowers in front of him, neither too near nor too far, at a distance, on a table or on a stool or on some such a stand, where it may be fully visible. He should open his eyes with an even gaze and keep them open moderately. He should consider the colour and utter its name as ‘yellow, yellow’ incessantly. This kind of repetition is done to prevent the external noises from coming and disturbing his concentration. This repetition further gives strength to his concentration. He must always be mindful and full of awareness of what he is doing. He should not strain his eyes, He should open his eyes, look at the object and shut them and try to remember it completely, in other words, he has to learn the object and copy or take into mind the replica of what he sees with his eyes. He may have to go on opening and shutting his eyes perhaps a hundred times, a thousand times or more than that till he would be able to see the reflection or the replica of the object before his mind’s eye. When he is successful in seeing the replica, the counterpart of the outer object with his mind, he needs not look at the flower-bunch any more. He can go away and walk up and down or sit on a comfortable seat as he would like while remembering the object and fixing his mind on the same thing. If, he would fail to remember the replica, again he should go to the former place and look at the flower bunch and get its reflection and continue his practice as before.
At last he will be able to remember clearly the counterpart of the object. When he continues this practice he may forget everything else and eventually the defects, lust, anger and the like find no opportunity to surge up in his mind and would be inhibited more and more. Thus his mind turns purer and purer every moment, and at last, as a consequence of his mind’s purity, the said counterpart object would appear brighter, free of all blemishes that had appeared in its preceding stages.
When the counterpart object appears perfectly bright, all his mental defects would subside and be thoroughly inhibited. This brilliant object is called after image (patibhaga-nimitta). It may appear before the mind as the full moon’s disk coming out from behind a cloud. When it appears the concentration of mind becomes stronger than before.
The developed stage of mind’s concentration is twofold namely Access-concentration (Upacara-samadhi) and absorption-concentration or ecstasy-concentration (Appana-samadhi). At the Access-concentration-stage the hindrances or defects of mind are thoroughly inhibited at the moment but may be easily disturbed and shaken and also the factors of the ecstasy are not strongly manifested. But at eh stage of absorption-concentration the mind is not easily disturbed and the factors of concentration may manifest themselves clearly and strongly.
The defects or hindrances that are inhibited at these concentration-stages are five namely, ill-will, sensuality, agitation of mind and worry, sloth (stiffness) and torpor and uncertainty. These five obstructive unwholesome qualities of mind (Nivarana) are inhibited at the development of five opposite factors namely applied thought, sustained thought, joy, bliss and unification of mind. The applied thought directs the mind onto its concentration-object. Sustained thought keeps the mind anchored in the object. Joy refreshes the mind and bliss intensifies it while unification centres the mind together with the other four factors on the object consisting in unity. When these are perfectly manifested in mind the Absorption (Appana) is said to have arisen.
This is called first Jhana. Now he should, fixing the mind on the said bright object (Patibhaga-nimitta) develop concentration still deeper.
The details of this practice have been given in Visuddhi-magga (Path of Purity).