A. One cannot attain enlightenment without having
cultivated the right conditions.
B. What are the conditions for enlightenment?
A. We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (V, Maha-vagga, Book
XI, Kindred Sayings on Streamwinning, Ch. I, par. 5, Sariputta) about four conditions for
becoming a sotapanna (streamwinner). The sutta states:
Now the venerable Sariputta went to see the Exalted One,
and on coming to him saluted him and sat down at one side. To the venerable Sariputta so
seated the Exalted One said this:
''A limb of stream-winning! A limb of stream-winning!' is
the saying, Sariputta. Tell me, Sariputta, of what sort is a limb of stream-winning.'
'Lord, association with the upright is a limb of
stream-winning. Hearing the good Dhamma is a limb of stream-winning. Applying the mind is
a limb of stream-winning. Conforming to the Dhamma is a limb of stream-winning.'
'Well said, Sariputta! Well said, Sariputta! Indeed these
are limbs of stream-winning.
Now again, Sariputta, they say: 'The stream! the stream!'
Of what sort is the stream, Sariputta?'
'The stream, lord, is just this Ariyan Eightfold Way, to
wit: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right
effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.'
'Well said, Sariputta! Well said, Sariputta! The stream is
just this Ariyan Eightfold Way.
Now again, Sariputta, they say, 'Stream-winner!
Stream-winner!' Of what sort is a stream-winner, Sariputta?'
'Whosoever, lord, is blessed with this Ariyan Eightfold
Way,-- such an one of such a name, of such and such a clan, is called 'Stream-winner.''
B. As regards the first condition, association with
the righteous person, is this essential? Would it not be possible to find the right path
A. Only Buddhas have accumulated such wisdom that they can
find the Path by themselves, without the help of a teacher. Other people, however, need
the teachings of a Buddha in order to find the right path, because ignorance has been
accumulated for an endlessly long time. We need association with the right person, the
good friend in Dhamma, who can point out to us the right path, because our defilements
prevent us from finding the right path. Our friend in Dhamma can encourage us to develop
mindfulness of nama and rupa.
B. What should one do if there is no such friend in
Dhamma, who can point out the right way of practice?
A. Reading the Buddhist scriptures is very helpful. The
teachings can encourage us to be mindful of nama and rupa in daily life. We might,
however, interpret the teachings in the wrong way. It depends on conditions whether we
come into contact with the right person who can help us to understand the teachings and
the practice in accordance with the teachings. Accumulated kusala kamma can be the
condition for us to meet the right person.
B. How can we find out whether we really understand
the teachings and practise the right path?
A. We can find out through the practice. If we practise in
the wrong way we may eventually find out that it does not lead to right understanding of
the realities of our daily life.
When we have heard the Dhamma from the right person, we
should 'apply the mind'; this is the third condition. We should not blindly follow the
person who teaches us Dhamma, but we should investigate the scriptures ourselves, ponder
over the Dhamma, and consider it carefully, in order to test the truth.
The real test of the truth is the practice itself.
Therefore, the fourth condition is 'conforming to the Dhamma', which is the practice: the
development of the Eightfold Path. By being mindful of the phenomena appearing through the
six doors we can prove whether it is true that these phenomena are only nama and rupa,
arising because of conditions. We can prove whether they are impermanent or permanent,
whether they are dukkha or happiness, whether they are anatta or 'self'. Through the
practice we will have more confidence (saddha) in the Buddha's teachings. We will have
more confidence when we experience that through right understanding of nama and rupa in
daily life and there will be less clinging to 'self'.
Lokuttara cittas cannot arise without the cultivation of
the right conditions. Some people wish for an end to dukkha but they do not develop
understanding in daily life. They hope that one day lokuttara cittas will arise. The
Buddha pointed out that the realization of the Four Noble Truths is difficult, not in
order to discourage people, but in order to remind them not to be heedless.
We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (V, Maha-vagga, Book XII,
Kindred Sayings about the Truths, Ch. V, par. 5, The keyhole) that Ananda watched in
Vesali the Licchavi youths practising archery. He went to see the Buddha and said:
'Here, lord, robing myself in the forenoon and taking bowl
and outer robe I set out for Vesali on my begging rounds. Then, lord, I saw a number of
Licchavi youths in the gymnasium making practice at archery, shooting even from a distance
through a very small keyhole, and splitting an arrow, shot after shot, with never a miss.
And I said to myself, lord: 'Practised shots are these Licchavi youths! Well practised
shots indeed are these Licchavi youths, to be able even at a distance to splinter an arrow
through a very small keyhole, shot after shot, with never a miss!' '
'Now what think you, Ananda? Which is the harder, which is
the harder task to compass: To shoot like that or to pierce one strand of hair, a hundred
times divided, with another strand?'
'Why, lord, of course to split a hair in such a way is the
harder, much the harder task.'
'Just so, Ananda, they who penetrate the meaning of: This
is dukkha, this is the arising of dukkha, this is the ceasing of dukkha, this is the
practice that leads to the ceasing of dukkha, pierce through something much harder to
Wherefore, Ananda, you must make an effort to realize:
This is dukkha. This is the arising of dukkha. This is the ceasing of dukkha. This is the
practice that leads to the ceasing of dukkha.'
B. I really feel discouraged when I hear this sutta.
It seems that it is impossible to attain enlightenment.
A. If one develops the right Path, not the wrong Path, one
will know the Four Noble Truths: one will attain enlightenment. The way to know the Four
Noble Truths is to be mindful of the realities which appear now: seeing, visible object,
lobha, dosa or any other reality. We should not be discouraged when we do not seem to make
rapid progress. Most people cling to a result and they become impatient when they do not
notice an immediate result; clinging to a result, however, is not helpful for the
development of wisdom, it is akusala.
Some people feel that the development of samatha can give
a more immediate result. Samatha, when it is developed, has tranquillity as its result.
When jhana is attained, lobha, dosa and moha are temporarily eliminated. However, the
attainment of jhana is extremely difficult and many conditions have to be cultivated. When
one cultivates samatha, but one cannot attain 'access-concentration' or jhana, the five
hindrances are bound to arise: there will be sensuous desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor,
restlessness and worry, and doubt.
The aim of vipassana is not tranquillity, but the
eradication of wrong view and eventually of all defilements. This goal may seem far off,
but each short moment of right awareness of nama or rupa is very fruitful; it will help to
eliminate clinging to the concept of self. While one is mindful, there is no lobha, dosa
or moha. Although tranquillity is not the aim, at the moment of right mindfulness the
kusala citta is peaceful.
B. Is enlightenment or the experience of nibbana the
same as thinking about nibbana?
A. Is the direct experience of the characteristics of nama
and rupa the same as thinking about them?
B. No, it is different.
A. Even so is the direct experience of nibbana different
from thinking about it.
B. Through which door does the person who attains
enlightenment experience nibbana?
A. Nibbana cannot be experienced through any of the five
senses, it is experienced through the mind-door.
B. Objects which contact the five sense-doors or the
mind-door are experienced by cittas arising in processes of citta. What is the process of
cittas like which experience nibbana? How many cittas experience nibbana directly?
A. The person who is about to attain enlightenment has
developed the knowledge of conditioned realities in the practice of vipassana. He has
realized the characteristics of nama and rupa more and more clearly and he experiences
their arising and falling away. Panna has been developed to the degree that it can realize
the nama and rupa which present themselves through the six doors as anicca (impermanent),
dukkha and anatta (not self). In the process during which enlightenment is attained, the
mano-dvaravajjana-citta (mind-door- adverting-consciousness) takes as its object one of
the three characteristics of reality: anicca, dukkha or anatta.
B. I understand that anicca, dukkha and anatta are
three aspects of the truth of conditioned realities. Thus, if one sees one aspect, one
also sees the other aspects. Why can one not experience the three characteristics at the
A. Cittas can experience only one object at a time. It
depends on one's accumulations which of the three characteristics is realized in the
process of cittas during which enlightenment is attained: one person views the reality
appearing at that moment as anicca, another as dukkha, and another again as anatta.
The mano-dvaravajjana-citta of that process adverts to one
of these three characteristics and is then succeeded by three or four cittas which are not
yet lokuttara cittas. but maha-kusala cittas (kusala cittas of the sensuous plane of
consciousness), accompanied by panna. The first maha-kusala citta is called parikamma, and
it still has the same object as the mano-dvaravajjana-citta. If the
mano-dvaravajjana-citta had anicca as the object, parikamma realizes the characteristic of
B. What does parikamma mean?
A. Parikamma means preparatory. The citta is called
'preparatory' because it is the first of the maha-kusala cittas before the lokuttara
cittas in that process arise. The parikamma is succeded by upacara, which still has the
same object as the mano-dvaravajjana-citta.
B. What does upacara mean?
A. Upacara means proximatory. This citta, which is the
second maha-kusala citta in that process, is nearer to the moment the lokuttara cittas
The upacara is succeeded by the anuloma, which still has
the same object as the mano-dvaravajjana-citta.
B. What does anuloma mean?
A. Anuloma means adaptation. Anuloma is succeeded by
gotrabhu which is the last citta of the sensuous plane of consciousness; it is the last
kamavacara citta in that process. Gotrabhu is sometimes translated as 'change of lineage'.
B. I have heard that in the practice of samatha there
is gotrabhu as well. Is the gotrabhu in samatha the same type of citta, or is there a
difference between gotrabhu in samatha and gotrabhu in vipassana
A. Gotrabhu is the last kamavacara citta in a process,
before a citta of another plane of consciousness arises in that process. The other plane
of consciousness may be rupavacara (in the case of rupa-jhana), arupavacara (in the case
of arupa-jhana) or lokuttara.
In samatha, gotrabhu is the last kamavacara citta before
the rupa-jhanacitta or the arupa-jhanacitta arises. In vipassana, gotrabhu is the last
kamavacara citta of the non-ariyan before the lokuttara citta arises and he becomes an
ariyan. The object of the gotrabhu arising before the lokuttara citta is different from
the object of gotrabhu in samatha.
B. What is the object of gotrabhu which arises before
the lokuttara citta?
A. Gotrabhu arising before the lokuttara citta has nibbana
B. Why is gotrabhu not lokuttara citta? It is the
first citta which has nibbana as object.
A. At the moment of gotrabhu the person who is about to
attain enlightenment is still a non-ariyan. Gotrabhu does not eradicate defilements.
Gotrabhu is succeeded by the magga-citta which eradicates the defilements that are to be
eradicated at the stage of the sotapanna. The magga-citta is the first lokuttara citta in
that process of cittas. When it has fallen away it is succeeded by two (or three)
phala-cittas which are the result of the magga-citta and which still have nibbana as the
object. As we have seen, the magga-citta is succeeded immediately by its result, in the
same process of citta. The magga-citta cannot produce vipaka in the form of rebirth, such
as the kusala citta of the other planes of consciousness. The phala-cittas are succeeded
Some people do not need the moment of parikamma
(preparatory consciousness) and in that case three moments of phala-citta arise instead of
Summarizing the process of citta, during which
enlightenment is attained, it is as follows:
- parikamma (preparatory; for some people not necessary)
- upacara (proximatory)
- anuloma (adaptation)
- gotrabhu (change of lineage)
- phala-citta (two or three moments, depending on the individual)
B. When the lokuttara cittas have fallen away and
there are kamavacara cittas again, can nibbana also be the object of kamavacara citta?
A. Nibbana can be the object of kamavacara-cittas which
arise after the lokuttara cittas have fallen away. Before someone becomes an ariyan there
can only be speculation about nibbana. Since the ariyan, however, directly experiences
nibbana, he can reflect upon his experience afterwards.
We read in the 'Visuddhimagga' (XXII, 19) that, after the
lokuttara cittas have fallen away, the person who attained enlightenment reviews in
different mind-door processes of citta the path, fruition, the defilements which have been
abandoned, the defilements still remaining and nibbana.
B. Could enlightenment occur in the middle of one's
daily activities or is it necessary to go into solitude in order to attain nibbana?
A. Since we cultivate wisdom in daily life, why could the
development of wisdom to the degree of enlightenment not occur in daily life?
Enlightenment can occur in the middle of one's daily activities if the wisdom is developed
to that degree. As we have seen, the attainment of nibbana is only a few moments of citta
which arise and fall away within split seconds.
We read in the 'Discourse to Dighanakha' (Middle Length
Savings II, No. 74) that the Buddha taught Dhamma to the wanderer Dighanakha on Vulture's
Peak near Rajagaha. He taught him about the getting rid of wrong views and about the
impermanence of conditioned realities. Sariputta, who was an ariyan but had not attained
arahatship, was also present at the time of that discourse. We read:
Now at that time the venerable Sariputta was standing
behind the Lord, fanning the Lord. Then it occurred to the venerable Sariputta:
'The Lord speaks to us of getting rid of these things and
those by means of super-knowledge, the Well-farer speaks to us of casting out these things
and those by means of superknowledge'. While the venerable Sariputta was reflecting on
this, his mind was freed from the cankers without clinging...
Sariputta did not go into solitude in order to attain
arahatship; he was fanning the Buddha.
We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (V, Khandha-vagga, Middle
Fifty, Par. 89, Khema) that Khemeka, who was an anagami attained arahatship while he was
preaching and monks who were listening attained arahatship as well. We read:
Now when this teaching was thus expounded the hearts of as
many as sixty monks were utterly set free from the asavas, and so was it also with the
heart of the venerable Khemaka.
If one is on the right path, panna can be developed, no
matter what the circumstances are, even to the degree of enlightenment.
B. Would someone else be able to notice it when a
person attains nibbana?
A. Can you see whether someone else is mindful or not
mindful? Who knows the cittas of other people? If we haven't developed the 'supernormal
power' (abhinna) of knowing the cittas of other people, we cannot know when someone else
is mindful of nama and rupa or when he attains nibbana.
B. Can one attain, in the course of one life, the four
stages of enlightenment, which are the stages of the sotapanna, the sakadagami, the
anagami and the arahat?
A. All four stages can be attained in the course of one
life. We read in the suttas about disciples of the Buddha who attained the ariyan state
but not yet arahatship and realized arahatship later on. For example, Ananda did not
attain arahatship during the Buddha's life, but he became an arahat after the Buddha had
passed away, the evening before the first great council was to start.
B. The arahat has eradicated all defilements and thus
he has reached the end of the cycle of birth, old age, sickness and death; he has realized
the end of dukkha. He will not be reborn, but he still has to die; therefore, has he
really attained the end of dukkha at the moment he realizes arahatship?
A. Even the arahat is subject to death, since he was born.
He can also experience unpleasant results of akusala kamma committed before he attained
arahatship. However, since he has no more defilements and cannot accumulate any more kamma
which might produce vipaka, he is really free from sorrow.
In 'As it was said' ('ltivuttaka', Ch. II, par. 7,
'Khuddaka Nikaya') two 'conditions of nibbana' (dhatu, which literally means element) are
explained. Sa-upadi-sesa nibbana is nibbana with the five khandhas still remaining. For
the arahat who has not finally passed away yet, there are still citta, cetasika and rupa
arising and falling away, although he has eradicated all defilements. An-upadi-sesa
nibbana is nibbana without the khandhas remaining. For the arahat who has finally passed
away, there are no longer citta, cetasika and rupa arising and falling away.
We read in the verse, after the explanation:
These two nibbana-states are shown by him
Who sees, who is such and unattached.
One state is that in this same life possessed.
With base remaining, though becoming's stream
Be cut off. While the state without a base
Belongs to the future, wherein all
Becomings utterly do come to cease.
They who, by knowing this state uncompounded
Have heart's release, by cutting off the stream,
They who have reached the core of dhamma, glad
To end, such have abandoned all becomings.
B. When one has become an arahat there will be no more
rebirth. If one only attains the stage of the sotapanna in the course of one's life, how
many more times does one have to be reborn?
A. The sotapanna will not be reborn more than seven times;
thus, eventually there will be an end to rebirth for him. If we do not cultivate
vipassana, the number of rebirths will be endless. It was out of compassion that the
Buddha spoke about the dangers of rebirth; he wanted to encourage people to develop
We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (V, Maha-vagga, Book XII,
Kindred Sayings about the Truths, Ch. V, part 6, Gross darkness) that the Buddha said to
'Monks, there is a darkness of interstellar space,
impenetrable gloom, such a murk of darkness as cannot enjoy the splendour of this moon and
sun, though they be of such mighty magic power and majesty.'
At these words a certain monk said to the Exalted One:
'Lord, that must be a mighty darkness, a mighty darkness
indeed! Pray, lord, is there any other darkness greater and more fearsome than that?'
'There is indeed, monk, another darkness, greater and more
fearsome. And what is that other darkness?
Monk, whatsoever recluses or brahmins understand not, as
it really is, the meaning of: This is dukkha, this is the arising of dukkha, this is the
ceasing of dukkha, this is the practice that leads to the ceasing of dukkha, such take
delight in the activities which conduce to rebirth. Thus taking delight they compose a
compound of activities which conduce to rebirth. Thus composing a compound of activities
they fall down into the darkness of rebirth...and despair. They are not released from
birth, and death...and despair. They are not released from dukkha, I declare.
But, monk, those recluses or brahmins who do understand as
it really is, the meaning of : This is dukkha, this is the practice that leads to the
ceasing of dukkha, such take not delight in the activities which conduce to rebirth...They
are released from dukkha, I declare.
Wherefore, monk, an effort must be made to realize: This
is dukkha. This is the arising of dukkha. This is the ceasing of dukkha. This is the
practice that leads to the ceasing of dukkha.'
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