THICH HUYEN VI
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS AND DEPENDENT ORIGINATION
SARIPUTTA ON THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS AND
The Sammaditthi Sutta (1) deals with the Four Noble Truths and Dependent Origination.
In the first place Sariputta explained right view (Sammaditthi) as comprehension of what is right and wrong. Then he explained it with reference to the Four Noble Truths, which have been stated as many as thirty-two times. Next he gives an exposition of the Dependent Origination has been used to illustrate the right understanding of the Four Noble Truths. In consideration of its twofold significance tradition has attached great importance to this discourse.
The substance of the discourse may be given as follows:
“What is suffering, what is cause, what is its cessation? Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, disease, dying, grief, lamentation, pain, tribulation and despair are suffering; and if one does not get what one wants, that, too, is suffering.
(Avijja-paccaya san-khara: through ignorance
The Saccavibhanga Sutta deals with the same theme. Once in the Dear Park at Isipatana (3) Lord Buddha addressed the monks and told them how he had delivered his first sermon on the Four Noble Truths at the very spot. Then at the instance of the Master, Sariputta gave an exposition of the Four Noble Truths. He explained the first truth of suffering beginning with birth and ending with the five aggregates of attachment as follows:
(What is birth? It is the conception, the production, the descent, the rebirth, the coming forth of various beings in the various classes of beings, the appearance of the groups (of grasping), and the acquiring of the sense bases. This is called birth. What is old age? It is indicated through decrepitude, broken teeth, greying hair, wrinkly skin, the dwindling of the life span, the collapse of the sense organs of the various beings in the various classes of beings. This is called old age. What is dying? It is the falling away, the passing away, the breaking up, the disappearance, the death and dying, the action of time, the breaking up of the groups (of grasping), the laying down of the body. This is called dying. What is meant by grief? It is sorrow, sorrowfulness, the inward grief, the inner pain of one visited by some kind of calamity or other, smitten by some kind of ill or other. It is indicated through crying, wailing, the act of crying, the act of wailing, the state of crying, and the state of wailing of one visited by some calamity or other, smitten by some kind of ill or other. This is called sorrow. What is suffering? It is physical suffering, physical disagreeableness arising from an impingement on the body and experienced as suffering, as disagreeableness. This is called suffering. What is misery? It is mental suffering, mental disagreeableness arising from impingement on the mind and experienced as suffering, as disagreeableness. This is called misery. What is despondency, despair, the state of despondency, the state of despair of one visited by some calamity or other, smitten by some kind of ill or other? This is called despair. What is meant by (not getting what one desires – that, too, is suffering?) A wish like this arises in creatures liable to birth: (O might we not be liable to birth, may birth not come to us). But this wish cannot be fulfilled. Likewise, (getting what one does not desire – that, too is suffering? A wish like this arises in creature liable to aging, to disease, to dying, in creature liable to grief, sorrow, suffering, misery and despair: (O might we not be liable to grief, sorrow, suffering, misery and despair not come to us). But this wish cannot be fulfilled. So, (not getting what one desires – that, too is suffering). In brief, what are the five groups of grasping that is suffering? The group of grasping after forms, the group of grasping after feeling, after perception, impulses and tendencies, and after consciousness. These are called, in brief, the five groups of grasping that are anguish. All this is implied by the Aryan truth of suffering. (4)
Next he gave a detailed explanation of the remaining three noble truths. In course of th4e fourth truth he also gave an outline of the four foundations of mindfulness, the four absorptions, etc…, as found in many a discourse of the Master and the disciples.
In several other discourses also the Master simply introduced the subject matter, and Sariputta gave a detailed exposition of the same. Thus, Sariputta was made the first commentator, though a canonical one, i.e. the most authoritative of all expositors to follow him.
Considering the style of Sariputta dhammam exposition in the Saccavibhanga Sutta, although as a stock passage it is not always put into the mouth of Sariputta when occurring in other discourses, one is reminded of the style in which the Culla-Niddesa is handed down to us or so many passages in the Dhamma-sangani, e.g. commenting by way of giving profusely detailed definitions of key words and technical terms mostly consisting of long lists of synonyms. Sariputta habit of persistently searching for the best and precision term available bespeaks his acumen; he never rests contented with just one definite conception probing the whole range of the meaning a word may have. That Sariputta is also a master of brevity can be seen when touching upon the Sangiti Suttanta and Dasuttara Suttanta.
The Mahahatthipadopama Sutta (5) is also on the Four Truths and Dependent Origination. In the beginning Sariputta says that just as the footprint of the elephant could comprise the footprints of all the animals, in the same way the Four Noble Truths comprise all wholesome states. Then he proceeds to explain the Four Noble Truths one by one. The first truth of suffering has been explained with reference to the five aggregate of corporeality has been treated in detail in terms of the four elements. Next, the other four aggregates have also been treated. In conclusion, it has been pointed out how as a result of the interaction between senses organs on the one hand and sense objects on the other, the six fold consciousness comes into existence. In fact, the conditional nature holds of all the five aggregates. In support of the same he quote the Master: He who understand Dependent Origination understands the Dhammam, and he who understand the Dhammam understands Dependent Origination).
The Kalara Sutta (6) also has a reference to Dependent Origination. In this Sutta Sariputta tells Kalara-Khattiya that Moliya-Phagguna did not find satisfaction in the Dhammam, because he was not able to understand it, then he proceeds to explain the significance of Dharma in terms of Dependent Origination (Paticasamuppada).
ON THE NOBLE PATH.
The major portion of the Dhammadayada Sutta (7) is on the Noble Eightfold Path. After advising the monks to be heirs of the Dhammam and not heirs of material things, Lord Buddha retired. Thereafter, Sariputta explained to them the meaning of the advice of the Master. He told them that they could be the true heirs of the Master only by treading the Noble Eightfold Path...
In the same way Sariputta explained in the Nibbana (8) to Jambukha-daka the path leading to Nibbana, i.e. the Noble Eightfold Path.
The second part of this Sutta, the Dutiyasariputta Sutta, is also on the Noble Eightfold Path. In the beginning Sariputta enumerates the conditions necessary for (entering the stream). Then he explains the significance of the (stream) in terms of the Noble Eightfold Path. (9)
The Anathapindika Sutta is also more or less of the same theme. Sariputta advised the ailing devotee to train himself in the Noble Eightfold Path, which alone could lead him to (10) happiness.
The Dutiyabala Sutta (11) and Khinasavabala Sutta (12) are also of the same topic. While the first deals with the eight factors proper the second Sutta adds two more factors, namely, the four kinds of right exertion and five kinds of powers.