Nibbàna Sermon 15

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammàsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammàsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammàsambuddhassa

 Etaü santaü, etaü paõãtaü, yadidaü sabbasaïkhàra­samatho sabbåpadhipañinissaggo taõhakkhayo viràgo nirodho nibbànaü.[1]

"This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all prepa­rations, the relinquishment of all assets, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction."

With the permission of the Most Venerable Great Preceptor and the assembly of the venerable meditative monks. This is the fifteenth sermon in the series of sermons on Nib­bàna.

Towards the end of our last sermon we happened to quote a brief exhortation on Dhamma from the Udàna, which en­abled the ascetic Bàhiya Dàrucãriya to liberate his mind from imag­inings and attain the state of non-identification, atam­maya­tà, or arahant-hood. In or­der to attempt an exposition of that ex­hortation of the Buddha, which was pithy enough to bring about instantaneous arahant-hood, let us refresh our memory of that brief discourse to Bàhiya.

Tasmàtiha te, Bàhiya, evaü sikkhitabbaü: diññhe diññha­mattaü bha­vissati, sute sutamattaü bhavissati, mute muta­mattaü bhavissati, vi¤¤àte vi¤¤àtamattaü bhavissati. Evaü hi te, Bàhiya, sikkhitabbaü.

Yato kho te, Bàhiya, diññhe diññhamattaü bhavissati, sute suta­mat­taü bhavissati, mute mutamattaü bhavissati, vi¤¤àte vi¤¤àta­mattaü bhavissati, tato tvaü Bàhiya na tena. Yato tvaü Bàhiya na tena, tato tvaü Bàhiya na tattha. Yato tvaü Bàhiya na tattha, tato tvaü Bàhiya nev'idha na huraü na ubhayamantarena. Es'ev'anto dukkhassa.[2]

"Well, then, Bàhiya, you had better train yourself thus: In the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard there will be just the heard, in the sensed there will be just the sensed, in the cognized there will be just the cognized. Thus, Bàhiya, should you train yourself.

And when to you, Bàhiya, there will be in the seen just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the sensed just the sensed, in the cog­nized just the cognized, then, Bàhiya, you will not be by it. And when, Bàhiya, you are not by it, then, Bàhiya, you are not in it. And when, Bàhiya, you are not in it, then, Bàhiya, you are neither here nor there nor in between. This, itself, is the end of suffering."

As a clue to an exegesis of this discourse, we made an at­tempt, the other day, to unravel the meaning of the two puz­zling terms in the text, namely, na tena and na tattha. These two terms are appar­ently unrelated to the context. To get at their significance, we brought up a quotation of two lines from the Jaràsutta of the Aññha­ka­vagga of the Sutta Nipàta.

Dhono na hi tena ma¤¤ati

yadidaü diññhasutaü mutesu và.[3]

Dhona is a term for the arahant in the sense that he has "shaken off" the dust of defilements. So then, these two lines imply that the arahant does not imagine thereby, namely yadi­daü, in terms of whatever is seen, heard or sensed. These two lines are, as it were, a random exegesis of our riddle terms in the Bàhiyasutta.

The first line itself gives the clue to the rather elliptical term na tena, which carries no verb with it. Our quotation makes it clear that the implication is ma¤¤anà, or imagining. Dhono na hi tena ma¤¤ati, the arahant does not imagine `by it' or `thereby'.

Although the Bàhiyasutta makes no mention of the word ma¤­¤a­, this particular expression seems to suggest that what is implied here is a form of imagining. By way of further proof we may allude to another quotation, which we had to bring up several times: Yena yena hi ma¤¤anti, tato taü hoti a¤¤athà. [4] "In what­ever terms they imagine it, thereby it turns otherwise". We came across another ex­pression, which has a similar con­nota­tion: tena ca mà ma¤¤i, "do not be vain thereby".[5]

The first thing we can infer, therefore, from the above quoted two lines of the verse, is that what is to be understood by the elliptical ex­pression na tena in the Bàhiyasutta is the idea of imagining, or in short, na tena ma¤¤ati, "does not imag­ine thereby".

Secondly, as to what precisely is implied by the word tena, or "by it", can also be easily inferred from those two lines. In fact, the sec­ond line beginning with the word yadidaü, which means "namely" or "that is", looks like a commentary on the first line itself. The dhono, or the arahant, does not imagine `thereby', namely by what­ever is seen, heard and sensed.

The verse in question mentions only the three terms diññha, suta and muta, whereas the Bàhiyasutta has as its framework the four terms diññha, suta, muta and vi¤¤ata. Since what pre­cedes the term na tena in the Bàhiyasutta is the fourfold prem­ise beginning with diñ­ñhe diññhamattaü bhavissati, "when to you, Bàhiya, there will be in the seen just the seen", it stands to reason that what the Buddha meant by the term na tena is the attitude of not thinking `in terms of' whatever is seen, heard, sensed or cognized. That is to say, not imag­ining `there­by'.

This same attitude of not imagining `thereby' is what is up­held in the Målapariyàyasutta, which we discussed at length on a previous occasion.[6] There we explained the word ma¤­¤a­nà, "me-thinking", "imagining", taking as a paradigm the first term pañhavi, occurring in the list of twenty-four terms given there. Among the twenty-four terms, we find mentioned the four relevant to our present problem, namely diññha, suta, muta and vi¤¤àta.[7]

We are now used to the general schema of the Målapari­yàya­sutta, concerning the attitude of the three categories of persons mentioned there. Let us, for instance, take up what is said in that context with regard to the sekha, or the monk in higher training.

Pañhaviü pañhavito abhi¤¤àya pañhaviü mà ma¤¤i, pañha­vi­yà mà ma¤¤i, pañhavito mà ma¤¤i, pañhaviü me ti mà ma¤­¤i, pañhaviü mà abhinandi.

This is how the attitude of the sekha is described with re­gard to pañhavi, or earth. Suppose we substitute diññha, or the seen, in place of pañhavi. This is what we should get:

Diññhaü diññhato abhi¤¤àya diññhaü mà ma¤¤i, diññhasmiü mà ma¤­¤i, diññhato mà ma¤¤i, diññhaü me ti mà ma¤¤i, diñ­ñhaü mà abhi­nandi.

What the sekha has before him is a step of training, and this is how he has to train in respect of the four things, the seen, the heard, the sensed and the cognized. He should not imagine in terms of them.

For instance, he understands through higher knowledge, and not through the ordinary perception of the worldling, the seen as `seen'. Having thus understood it, he has to train in not imagining the seen as a thing, by objectifying it. Diññhaü mà ma¤­¤i, let him not imagine a `seen'. Also, let him not imagine `in the seen', or `from the seen'. We have already pointed out the relationship between these imagin­ings and the grammatical structure.[8]

This objectification of the seen gives rise to acquisitive ten­den­cies, to imagine the seen as `mine'. Diññhaü me ti mà ma¤­¤i, let him not imagine `I have seen' or `I have a seen'.

This acquisition has something congratulatory about it. It leads to some sort of joy, so the monk in higher training has to combat that too. Diññhaü mà abhi­nandi, let him not delight in the seen.

It seems, then, that the Buddha has addressed the ascetic Bàhiya Dàrucãriya in the language of the ariyans, for the very first instruc­tion given to him was "in the seen there will be just the seen". So high­ly developed in wisdom and quick witted was Bàhiya[9] that the Buddha promptly asked him to stop short at the seen, by under­stand­ing that in the seen there is just the seen.

Not to have imaginings or me-thinkings about the seen is there­fore the way to stop short at just the seen. If one does not stop short at just the seen, but goes on imagining in terms of `in the seen', `from the seen', etc., as already stated, one will end up with an iden­tification, or tammayatà.

In our last sermon we brought up the term tammayatà. When one starts imagining in such terms about something, one tends to become one with it, tammayo, even as things made out of gold and silver are called golden, suvaõõamaya, and silvery, rajatamaya. It is as if one who grasps a gem becomes its owner and if anything happens to the gem he is affected by it. To possess a gem is to be possessed by it.

When one gets attached and becomes involved and entan­gled in the seen through craving, conceit and views, by imag­ining egoisti­cally, the result is identification, tammayatà, liter­ally "of-that-ness".

In this present context, however, the Buddha puts Bàhiya Dàru­­ri­ya on the path to non-identification, or atammayatà. That is to say, he advises Bàhiya not to indulge in such imag­inings. That at­titude leads to non-identification and detach­ment. When one has no attach­ments, involvements and entan­glements regarding the seen, one does not have the notion of being in the seen.

Once we spoke about a children's hut into which the mother was invited.[10] When she crept into that plaything of a hut, she did not se­ri­ously entertain the thought of being `in' it. Similarly if one does not indulge in imaginings, one has no notion of being `in' the seen.

This, then, is the significance of the words na tattha, "not in it". Yato tvaü Bàhiya na tena, tato tvaü Bàhiya na tattha. "When, Bàhi­ya, you are not by it, then, Bàhiya, you are not in it." That is to say, when for instance Bàhiya does not imagine `by the seen', he is not `in the seen'. Likewise, he is not in the heard, sensed or cog­nized. From this we can deduce the mean­ing of what follows.

Yato tvaü Bàhiya na tattha, tato tvaü Bàhiya nev'idha na huraü na ubhayamantarena. At whatever moment you neither imagine `by the seen` nor entertain the notion of being `in the seen`, which is tan­tamount to projecting an `I' into the seen, then you are neither here nor there nor in between.

In a number of earlier sermons we have sufficiently ex­plained the significance of the two ends and the middle as well as the above, the below and the across in the middle. What do they signify?

As we happened to point out on an earlier occasion, it is by driv­ing the peg of the conceit `am' that a world is measured out, con­strued or postulated.[11] We also pointed out that the gram­matical struc­ture springs up along with it. That is to say, together with the notion `am' there arises a `here'. 'Here' am I, he is `there' and you are `yon' or in front of me. This is the ba­sic ground plan for the grammatical structure, known to gram­mar as the first person, the second person and the third person.

A world comes to be measured out and a grammatical struc­ture springs up. This, in fact, is the origin of proliferation, or papa¤ca. So it is the freedom from that proliferation that is meant by the expres­sion nev'idha na huraü na ubhayamanta­rena, "neither here nor there nor between the two". The notion of one's being in the world, or the bifurcation as `I' and `the world', is no longer there. Es'ev'anto duk­khas­sa, this, then, is the end of suffering, Nibbàna.

The fundamental first principles underlying this short ex­hortation of the Buddha could thus be inferred to some extent. We could per­haps elicit something more regarding the signifi­cance of the four key terms in question.

In the section of the fours in the Aïguttara Nikàya we come across four modes of noble usages, cattàro ariya vo­hà­rà,[12] namely:

1. diññhe diññhavàdità

2. sute sutavàdità

3. mute mutavàdità

4. vi¤¤àte vi¤¤àtavàdità.

These four are

1. asserting the fact of having seen in regard to the seen,

2. asserting the fact of having heard in regard to the heard,

3. asserting the fact of having sensed in regard to the sensed,

4. asserting the fact of having cognized in regard to the cog-­

    nized.

Generally speaking, these four noble usages stand for the princi­ple of truthfulness. In some discourses, as well as in the Vinayapi­ñaka, these terms are used in that sense. They are the criteria of the veracity of a statement in general, not so much in a deep sense.

However, there are different levels of truth. In fact, truth­fulness is a question of giving evidence that runs parallel with one's level of experience. At higher levels of experience or re­alization, the evi­dence one gives also changes accordingly.

The episode of Venerable MahàTissa Thera is a case in view.[13] When he met a certain woman on his way, who dis­played her teeth in a wily giggle, he simply grasped the sign of her teeth. He did not to­tally refrain from grasping a sign, but took it as an illustration of his meditation subject. Later, when that woman's husband, searching for her, came up to him and asked whether he had seen a woman, he re­plied that all he saw was a skeleton. Now that is a certain level of ex­perience.

Similarly the concept of truthfulness is something that changes with levels of experience. There are various degrees of truth, based on realization. The highest among them is called paramasacca.[14] As to what that is, the Dhàtuvibhaïga­sutta itself provides the answer in the following statement of the Buddha.

Eta¤hi, bhikkhu, paramaü ariyasaccaü yadidaü amosa­dham­maü Nibbànaü.[15] "Monk, this is the highest noble truth, namely Nib­bàna, that is of a non-falsifying nature." All other truths are falsified when the corresponding level of experience is transcended. But Nib­bàna is the highest truth, since it can never be falsified by anything beyond it.

The fact that it is possible to give evidence by this highest level of experience comes to light in the Chabbisodhanasutta of the Maj­jhi­ma Nikàya. In this discourse we find the Buddha instructing the monks as to how they should interrogate a fel­low monk who claims to have attained arahant-hood. The in­terrogation has to fol­low cer­tain criteria, one of which con­cerns the four standpoints diñ­ñha, suta, muta and vi¤¤àta, the seen, the heard, the sensed and the cognized.

What sort of answer a monk who rightly claims to arahant-hood would give is also stated there by the Buddha. It runs as follows: Diñ­ñhe kho ahaü, àvuso, anupàyo anapàyo anissito ap­pañibaddho vip­pa­mutto visaüyutto vimariyàdikatena cetasà viharàmi.[16]

Here, then, is the highest mode of giving evidence in the court of Reality as an arahant. "Friends, with regard to the seen, I dwell un­at­tracted, unrepelled, independent, uninvolved, re­leased, unshackled, with a mind free from barriers."

He is unattracted, anupàyo, by lust and unrepelled, an­apà­yo, by hate. He is not dependent, anissito, on cravings, con­ceits and views. He is not involved, appañibaddho, with de­sires and attachments and is released, vippamutto, from de­filements. He is no longer shackled, visaüyutto, by fetters and his mind is free from barriers.

What these barriers are, we can easily infer. They are the bifurca­tions such as the internal and the external, ajjhatta ba­hiddhà, which are so basic to what is called existence, bhava. Where there are barri­ers, there are also attachments, aversions and conflicts. Where there is a fence, there is defence and of­fence.

So the arahant dwells with a mind unpartitioned and barri­er­less, vimariyàdikatena cetasà. To be able to make such a statement is the highest standard of giving evidence in regard to the four noble us­ages.

It is also noteworthy that in the Bàhiyasutta the Buddha has pre­sented the triple training of higher morality, higher con­cen­tration and higher wisdom, adhisãla, adhicitta and adhi­pa¤­¤à, through these four noble usages. The commentary, too, ac­cepts this fact.[17] But this is a point that might need clarifi­ca­tion. How are we to distinguish be­tween morality, concen­tra­tion and wisdom in this brief exhortation?

Now how does the exhortation begin? It opens with the words tas­màtiha te, Bàhiya, evaü sikkhitabbaü, "well then, Bàhiya, you should train yourself thus." This is an indication that the Buddha in­troduced him to a course of training, and this is the preliminary train­ing:

Diññhe diññhamattaü bhavissati, sute sutamattaü bhavis­sa­ti, mute muta­mattaü bhavissati, vi¤¤àte vi¤¤àtamattaü bha­vis­sati. "In the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard there will be just the heard, in the sensed there will be just the sensed, in the cognized there will be just the cognized."

What is hinted at by this initial instruction is the training in higher morality, adhisãlasikkhà. The most important aspect of this training is the morality of sense-restraint, indriya saüvara sãla. The first prin­ciples of sense-restraint are already implicit in this brief instruc­tion.

If one stops short at just the seen in regard to the seen, one does not grasp a sign in it, or dwell on its details. There is no sorting out as `this is good', `this is bad'. That itself conduces to sense-restraint. So we may conclude that the relevance of this brief instruction to the morality of sense-restraint is in its enjoining the abstention from grasp­ing a sign or dwelling on the details. That is what pertains to the training in higher mo­rality, adhisãlasikkha.

Let us see how it also serves the purpose of training in higher con­cen­tration. To stop at just the seen in the seen is to refrain from discursive thought, which is the way to abandon mental hin­drances. It is discursive thought that brings hin­drances in its train. So here we have what is relevant to the training in higher concentration as well.

Then what about higher wisdom, adhipa¤¤à? Something more specific has to be said in this concern. What precisely is to be under­stood by higher wisdom in this context? It is actu­ally the freedom from imaginings, ma¤¤anà, and proliferation, papa¤ca.

If one stops short at just the seen in the seen, such ramifi­cations as mentioned in discourses like the Målapariyàyasutta do not come in at all. The tendency to objectify the seen and to proliferate it as `in it', `from it' and `it is mine' receives no sanc­tion. This course of train­ing is helpful for the emancipa­tion of the mind from imaginings and proliferations.

The Buddha has compared the six sense-bases, that is eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, to a deserted village.[18] Su¤­­¤aü idaü at­tena và attaniyena và. "This is void of a self or any­thing belonging to a self." All these sense-bases are de­void of a self or anything be­longing to a self. Therefore they are com­parable to a deserted village, a village from which all in­habi­tants have fled.

The dictum `in the seen there will be just the seen' is an ad­vice conducive to the attitude of regarding the six sense-bases as a de­serted village. This is what pertains to higher wisdom in the Bud­dha's exhortation.

Papa¤ca, or prolific conceptualisation, is a process of trans­action with whatever is seen, heard, sensed, etc. So here there is no process of such transaction. Also, when one trains oneself according to the instruction "in the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard there will be just the heard, in the sensed there will be just the sensed, in the cognized there will be just the cognized", that identification im­plied by the term tammayatà will no longer be there.

Egotism, the conceit `am' and all what prompts conceptual pro­lif­eration will come to an end. This kind of training uproots the peg of the conceit `am', thereby bringing about the cessa­tion of prolific con­ceptualisation, the cessation of becoming and the cessation of suffer­ing.

We can therefore conclude that the entire triple training is en­shrined in this exhortation. What happens as a result of this training is indicated by the riddle like terms na tena, na tattha, nev'idha na huraü na ubhayamantarena.

When the wisdom of the ascetic Bàhiya Dàrucãriya had suf­fi­ciently matured by following the triple course of training, the Bud­dha gave the hint necessary for realization of that ces­sation of be­coming, which is Nibbàna, in the following words: "Then, Bàhiya, you will not be by it. And when, Bàhiya, you are not by it, then, Bàhiya, you are not in it. And when, Bà­hiya, you are not in it, then, Bàhiya, you are neither here nor there nor in between. This, itself, is the end of suffering."

This sermon, therefore, is one that succinctly presents the quintes­sence of the Saddhamma. It is said that the mind of the ascetic Bàhi­ya Dàrucãriya was released from all influxes im­mediately on hearing this exhortation.

Now let us come back to the sequence of events in the story as mentioned in the Udàna. It was after the Buddha had al­ready set out on his alms round that this sermon was almost wrenched from him with much insistence. When it had proved its worth, the Buddha continued with his alms round. Just then a cow with a young calf gored the arahant Bàhiya Dàrucãriya to death.

While returning from his alms round with a group of monks, the Buddha saw the corpse of the arahant Bàhiya. He asked those monks to take the dead body on a bed and cremate it. He even told them to build a cairn enshrining his relics, saying: "Monks, a co-celibate of yours has passed away."

Those monks, having carried out the instructions, came back and reported to the Buddha. Then they raised the ques­tion: "Where has he gone after death, what is his after death state?" The Buddha re­plied: "Monks, Bàhiya Dàrucãriya was wise, he lived up to the norm of the Dhamma, he did not har­ass me with questions on Dhamma. Monks, Bàhiya Dàrucãriya has attained Parinibbàna."

In conclusion, the Buddha uttered the following verse of uplift:

Yattha àpo ca pañhavã,

tejo vàyo na gàdhati,

na tattha sukkà jotanti,

àdicco nappakàsati,

na tattha candimà bhàti,

tamo tattha na vijjati.

Yadà ca attanàvedi,

muni monena bràhmaõo,

atha råpà aråpà ca,

sukhadukkhà pamuccati.[19]

On the face of it, the verse seems to imply something like this:

"Where water, earth, fire and air

Do not find a footing,

There the stars do not shine,

And the sun spreads not its lustre,

The moon does not appear resplendent there,

And no darkness is to be found there.

When the sage, the brahmin with wisdom,

Understands by himself,

Then is he freed from form and formless,

And from pleasure and pain as well."

The commentary to the Udàna, Paramatthadãpanã, gives a strange interpretation to this verse. It interprets the verse as a de­scrip­tion of the destination of the arahant Bàhiya Dàru­cãri­ya after he at­tained Parinibbàna, the place he went to.[20] Even the term Nibbàna­gati is used in that connection, the `place' one goes to in attaining Pari­nibbàna. That place, ac­cording to the commentary, is not easily understood by worldlings. Its char­acteristics are said to be the fol­lowing:

The four elements, earth, water, fire and air, are not there. No sun, or moon, or stars are there. The reason why the four elements are ne­gated is supposed to be the fact that there is nothing that is com­pounded in the uncompounded Nib­bàna element, into which the ara­hant passes away.

Since no sun, or moon, or stars are there in that myste­rious place, one might wonder why there is no darkness either. The commentator tries to forestall the objection by stating that it is precisely because one might think that there should be dark­ness when those luminaries are not there, that the Buddha em­phatically negates it. So the com­mentarial interpretation ap­parently leads us to the conclusion that there is no darkness in the Nibbàna ele­ment, even though no sun or moon or stars are there.

The line of interpretation we have followed throughout this series of sermons allows us to depart from this commentarial trend. That place where earth, water, fire and air do not find a footing is not where the arahant Bàhiya Dàrucãriya had `gone' when he passed away. The commentator seems to have con­strued this verse as a reply the Buddha gave to the question raised by those monks. Their ques­tion was: "Where has he gone after death, what is his after death state?" They were cu­rious about his borne.

But when we carefully examine the context, it becomes clear that they raised that question because they did not know that the corpse they cremated was that of an arahant. Had they known it, they would not have even asked that question. That is precisely the reason for the Buddha's declaration that Bà­hiya attained Parinibbàna, a fact he had not disclosed be­fore. He added that Bàhiya followed the path of Dham­ma without harassing him with questions and attained Parinib­bàna.

Now that is the answer proper. To reveal the fact that Bà­hiya at­tained Parinibbàna is to answer the question put by those inquisitive monks. Obviously they knew enough of the Dhamma to understand then, that their question about the borne and destiny of Venerable Bàhi­ya was totally irrele­vant.

So then the verse uttered by the Buddha in conclusion was some­thing extra. It was only a joyous utterance, a verse of up­lift, coming as a grand finale to the whole episode.

Such verses of uplift are often to be met with in the Udàna. As we already mentioned, the verses in the Udàna have to be interpreted very carefully, because they go far beyond the im­plications of the story concerned.[21] They invite us to take a plunge into the ocean of Dham­ma. Just one verse is enough. The text is small but deep. The verse in question is such a sponta­neous utterance of joy. It is not the answer to the ques­tion `where did he go?'

Well, in that case, what are we to understand by the word yat­tha, "where"? We have already given a clue to it in our sev­enth sermon with reference to that non-manifestative con­scious­ness, anidassana vi¤¤àõa. What the Buddha describes in this verse, is not the place where the Venerable arahant Bàhi­ya went after his demise, but the non-manifestative conscious­ness he had realized here and now, in his concentration of the fruit of arahant-hood, or arahattaphalasamàdhi.

Let us hark back to the four lines quoted in the Kevaóóha­sut­ta.

Vi¤¤àõaü anidassanaü,

anantaü sabbato pabhaü,

ettha àpo ca pañhavã,

tejo vàyo na gàdhati.[22]

"Consciousness which is non-manifestative,

Endless, lustrous on all sides,

It is here that water, earth,

Fire and air no footing find."

The first two lines of the verse in the Bàhiyasutta, begin­ning with the correlative yattha, "where", find an answer in the last two lines quoted above from the Kevaóóhasutta. What is referred to as "it is here", is obviously the non-manifestative consciousness mentioned in the first two lines. That problem­atic place indicated by the word yattha, "where", in the Bàhi­yasutta, is none other than this non-mani­festative conscious­ness.

We had occasion to explain at length in what sense earth, water, fire and air find no footing in that consciousness. The ghostly ele­ments do not haunt that consciousness. That much is clear. But how are we to understand the enigmatic reference to the sun, the moon and the stars? It is said that the stars do not shine in that non-mani­festative consciousness, the sun does not spread its lustre and the moon does not appear resplendent in it, nor is there any darkness. How are we to construe all this?

Briefly stated, the Buddha's declaration amounts to the reve­lation that the sun, the moon and the stars fade away be­fore the superior ra­diance of the non-manifestative conscious­ness, which is infinite and lustrous on all sides.

How a lesser radiance fades away before a superior one, we have already explained with reference to the cinema in a num­ber of earlier sermons.[23] To sum up, the attention of the audi­ence in a cinema is di­rected to the narrow beam of light falling on the screen. The audi­ence, or the spectators, are seeing the scenes making up the film show with the help of that beam of light and the thick darkness around.

This second factor is also very important. Scenes appear not sim­ply because of the beam of light. The thickness of the darkness around is also instrumental in it. This fact is re­vealed when the cin­ema hall is fully lit up. If the cinema hall is sud­denly illuminated, either by the opening of doors and win­dows or by some electrical device, the scenes falling on the screen fade away as if they were erased. The beam of light, which was earlier there, becomes dim be­fore the superior light. The lesser lustre is superseded by a greater lustre.

We might sometimes be found fault with for harping on this cin­ema simile, on the ground that it impinges on the pre­cept concerning abstinence from enjoying dramatic perform­ances, song and music. But let us consider whether this cinema is something confined to a cinema hall.

In the open air theatre of the world before us, a similar phe­nome­non of supersedence is occurring. In the twilight glow of the evening the twinkling stars enable us to faintly figure out the objects around us, despite the growing darkness. Then the moon comes up. Now what happens to the twinkling little stars? They fade away, their lus­tre being superseded by that of the moon.

Then we begin to enjoy the charming scenes before us in the se­rene moonlit night. The night passes off. The day light gleam of the sun comes up. What happens then? The soft radi­ance of the moon wanes before the majestic lustre of the sun. The moon gets super­seded and fades away. Full of confi­dence we are now watching the multitude of technicoloured scenes in this massive theatre of the world. In broad daylight, when sun­shine is there, we have no doubt about our vision of objects around us.

But now let us suppose that the extraneous defilements in the mind of a noble disciple, treading the noble eightfold path, get dis­pelled, allowing its intrinsic lustre of wisdom to shine forth. What happens then? The stars, the moon and the sun get superseded by that light of wisdom. Even the forms that one had seen by twilight, moonlight and sunlight fade away and pale into insignificance. The umbra of form and the penumbra of the formless get fully erased.

In the previous sermon we happened to mention that form and space are related to each other, like the picture and its back­ground. Now all this is happening in the firmament, which forms the back­ground. We could enjoy the scenes of the world cinema, because of that darkness. The twilight, the moon­light and the sunlight are but various levels of that dark­ness.

The worldling thinks that one who has eyes must surely see if there is sunshine. He cannot think of anything beyond it. But the Buddha has declared that there is something more radiant than the radiance of the sun. Natthi pa¤¤àsamà àbhà, "there is no radiance comparable to wisdom".[24]

Let us hark back to a declaration by the Buddha we had al­ready quoted in a previous sermon. Catasso imà, bhikkhave, pabhà. Katamà catasso? Candappabhà, såriyappabhà, aggip­pabhà, pa¤­¤ap­pabhà, imà kho, bhikkhave, catasso pabhà. Etadaggaü, bhik­kha­ve, imàsaü catunnaü pabhànaü, yad idaü pa¤¤a­ppabhà.[25] "Monks, there are these four lus­tres. What four? The lustre of the moon, the lustre of the sun, the lustre of fire, the lustre of wisdom. These, monks, are the four lustres. This, monks, is the highest among these four lustres, namely the lustre of wisdom."

So, then, we can now understand why the form and the formless fade away. This wisdom has a penetrative quality, for which reason it is called nibbedhikà pa¤¤à.[26] When one sees forms, one sees them to­gether with their shadows. The fact that one sees shadows there, is itself proof that darkness has not been fully dispelled. If light comes from all directions, there is no shadow at all. If that light is of a pene­trative nature, not even form will be manifest there.

Now it is mainly due to what is called `form' and `form­less', råpa/aråpa, that the worldling experiences pleasure and pain in a world that distinguishes between a `pleasure' and a `pain'.

Though we have departed from the commentarial path of exe­ge­sis, we are now in a position to interpret the cryptic verse in the Bàhi­yasutta perhaps more meaningfully. Let us now re­call the verse in question.

Yattha àpo ca pañhavã,

tejo vàyo na gàdhati,

na tattha sukkà jotanti,

àdicco nappakàsati,

na tattha candimà bhàti,

tamo tattha na vijjati.

Yadà ca attanàvedi,

muni monena bràhmaõo,

atha råpà aråpà ca,

sukhadukkhà pamuccati.[27]

The verse can be fully explained along the lines of inter­pretation we have adopted. By way of further proof of the in­adequacy of the commentarial explanation of the references to the sun, the moon and the stars in this verse, we may draw at­tention to the following points.

According to the commentary the verse is supposed to ex­press that there are no sun, moon or stars in that mysteri­ous place called an­upàdisesa Nibbànadhàtu, which is incom­pre­hensible to world­lings. We may, however, point out that the verbs used in the verse in this connection do not convey the sense that the sun, the moon and the stars are simply non exis­tent there. They have something more to say.

For instance, with regard to the stars it is said that there the stars do not shine, na tattha sukkà jotanti. If in truth and fact stars are not there, some other verb like na dissanti, "are not seen", or na vijjanti, "do not exist", could have been used.

With reference to the sun and the moon, also, similar verbs could have been employed. But what we actually find here, are verbs ex­pressive of spreading light, shining, or ap­pearing beau­tiful: Na tattha sukkà jotanti, "there the stars do not shine"; àdicco nappakàsati, "the sun spreads not its lus­tre"; na tattha candimà bhàti, "the moon does not appear re­splendent there".

These are not mere prosaic statements. The verse in ques­tion is a joyous utterance, Udànagàthà, of extraordinary depth. There is noth­ing recondite about it.

In our earlier assessment of the commentarial interpretation we happened to lay special stress on the words `even though'. We are now going to explain the significance of that emphasis. For the com­mentary, the line tamo tattha na vijjati, "no dark­ness is to be found there", is a big riddle. The sun, the moon and the stars are not there. Even though they are not there, pre­sumably, no darkness is to be found there.

However, when we consider the law of superseding, we have al­ready mentioned, we are compelled to give a totally dif­ferent inter­pretation. The sun, the moon and the stars are not manifest, precisely because of the light of that non-mani­festative consciousness. As it is lustrous on all sides, sab­bato pabha, there is no darkness there and luminaries like the stars, the sun and the moon do not shine there.

This verse of uplift thus reveals a wealth of information rele­vant to our topic. Not only the exhortation to Bàhiya, but this verse also throws a flood of light on the subject of Nib­bàna.

That extraordinary place, which the commentary often identifies with the term anupàdisesa Nibbànadhàtu, is this mind of ours. It is in order to indicate the luminosity of this mind that the Buddha used those peculiar expressions in this verse of uplift.

What actually happens in the attainment to the fruit of ara­hant-hood? The worldling discerns the world around him with the help of six narrow beams of light, namely the six sense-bases. When the su­perior lustre of wisdom arises, those six sense-bases go down. This cessation of the six sense-bases could also be referred to as the ces­sation of name-and-form, nàmaråpanirodha, or the cessation of con­sciousness, vi¤­¤à­õa­nirodha.

The cessation of the six sense-bases does not mean that one does not see anything. What one sees then is voidness. It is an in-`sight'. He gives expression to it with the words su¤¤o loko, "void is the world". What it means is that all the sense-objects, which the world­ling grasps as real and truly existing, get pene­trated through with wisdom and become non-manifest.

If we are to add something more to this interpretation of the Bàhi­yasutta by way of review, we may say that this dis­course illustrates the six qualities of the Dhamma, namely svàk­khàto, well proclaimed, sandiññhiko, visible here and now, akàliko, timeless, ehipassiko, in­viting to come and see, opa­nayiko, lead­ing onward and paccattaü veditabbo vi¤¤åhi, to be real­ized by the wise each one by himself. These six quali­ties are wonderfully exemplified by this discourse.

In a previous sermon we had occasion to bring up a simile of a dewdrop, dazzling in the morning sunshine.[28] The task of seeing the spectrum of rainbow colours through a tiny dew­drop hanging from a creeper or a leaf is one that calls for a high degree of mindfulness. Simply by standing or sitting with one's face towards the rising sun, one will not be able to catch a glimpse of the brilliant spectrum of rainbow colours through the dewdrop. It requires a particular view­point. Only when one focuses on that viewpoint, can one see it.

So it is with the spectrum of the six qualities of the Dham­ma. Here, too, the correct viewpoint is a must, and that is right view. Re­flection on the meaning of deep discourses helps one to straighten up right view.

Where right view is lacking, morality inclines towards dog­matic attachment to rituals, sãlabbataparàmàsa. Concen­tration turns out to be wrong concentration, micchà samàdhi.

Like the one who sits facing the sun, one might be looking in the direction of the Dhamma, but right view is not some­thing one inher­its by merely going to refuge to the Buddha. It has to be developed with effort and proper atten­tion. View is something that has to be straightened up. For diññhujukamma, the act of straightening up one's view is reckoned as one of the ten skilful deeds, kusalakamma.

So however long one may sit with folded legs, gazing at the Bud­dha sun, one might not be able to see the six rainbow col­ours of the Dhamma. One may be short of just one-hundredth of an inch as the proper adjustment for right view. Yet it is a must. Once that adjust­ment is made, one immediately, then and there, tavad'eva, catches a glimpse of the spectrum of the Dham­ma that the Buddha has pro­claimed.

We have stressed the importance of right view in particular, be­cause many are grappling with a self created problem, con­cerning the proper alignment between the triple training and the right view of the noble eightfold path.

Now as to the triple training, morality, concentration and wisdom, we find wisdom mentioned last. It seems, then, that we have to per­fect morality first, then develop concentration, and only lastly wis­dom. One need not think of wisdom before that. But when we come to the noble eightfold path, we find a different order of values. Here right view takes precedence. As a matter of fact, in the Mahàcattà­rãsakasutta of the Majjhima Nikàya we find the Buddha repeatedly declaring emphatically tatra, bhikkhave, sammà diññhi pubbaïgamà, "monks, therein right view takes precedence".[29] Even in a context where the subject is morality, we find a similar statement. So how are we to resolve this issue?

In the noble eightfold path, pride of place is given to right view, which is representative of the wisdom group. As the well-known defi­nition goes, right view and right thoughts be­long to the wisdom group; right speech, right action and right livelihood come under the morality group; and right effort, right mindfulness and right concen­tration belong to the con­centration group.

So in this way, in the noble eightfold path, wisdom comes first, then morality and lastly concentration. But in the context of these three groups, firstly comes mo­rality, secondly con­centration and lastly wisdom, Here, too, the answer given by the arahant-nun Ven­erable Dhammadin­nà to the lay disciple Visàkha comes to our aid.

The lay disciple Visàkha poses the following question to Vener­able Dhammadinnà: Ariyena nu kho ayye aññhaïgikena maggena tayo khandhà saïgahità, udàhu tãhi khandhehi ariyo aññhaïgiko mag­go saïgahito? "Good lady, are the three groups morality, con­centra­tion and wisdom, included by the noble eightfold path, or is the noble eightfold path included by the three groups?"[30]

Even at that time there may have been some who raised such ques­tions. That is probably the reason for such a query. Then the ara­hant-nun Dhammadinnà answers: Na kho àvuso Visàkha ariyena aññhaïgikena maggena tayo khandhà saïga­hità, tãhi ca kho àvuso Vi­sàkha khandhehi ariyo aññhaïgiko maggo saïgahito. "Friend Vi­­kha, it is not that the threefold training is included by the noble eight­fold path, but the noble eightfold path is included by the three­fold train­ing."

Since this appears to be something of a tangle, let us try to illus­trate the position with some other kind of tangle. Suppose someone is trying to climb up a long rope, made up of three strands. As he climbs up, his fingertips might come now in contact with the first strand, now with the second and now with the third. He is not wor­ried about the order of the three strands, so long as they are well knit. One can safely climb up, holding onto the three strands, only when they are firmly wound up into a sturdy rope.

All these questions seem to have arisen due to an attitude of tak­ing too seriously the numerical order of things. To the no­ble disciple climbing up the rope of the noble eightfold path, there need not be any confusion between the numerical order of the triple training and that of the noble eightfold path. But if someone taking the cue from the order of the triple training neglects right view or ignores its prime import, he might end up confused.

All in all, we are now in a position to correctly assess the deep significance of the Bàhiyasutta. Here we have the quin­tessence of the entire Saddhamma. We are not confronted with heaps of perceptual data, which we are told today are essential requisites for admission into the `city' of Nibbàna.

For the ordinary worldling, amassing a particular set of per­cepts or concepts seems a qualification for entering Nib­bàna. But what we have here, is a way of liberating the mind even from latencies to per­cepts, cf. sa¤¤à nànusenti, Madhu­piõ­ói­ka­sutta, "perceptions do not lie latent.[31] There is no heaping up anew.

What are called "extraneous taints", àgantukà upakkilesà,[32] are not confined to the well known defilements in the world. They in­clude all the rust and dust we have been collecting throughout this long saüsàra, with the help of the influxes, àsavà. They include even the heap of percepts which the world calls `knowledge'. Even numerals are part of it.

The Buddha has briefly expressed here the mode of prac­tice for disabusing the mind from all such taints. Therefore there is no reason for underestimating the value of this dis­course, by calling it vohàra desanà, conventional teaching. This discourse in the Udàna is one that is truly `up'-lifting.

It indeed deserves a paean of joy.

 

 

 



 1   M I 436, MahàMàlunkyasutta.

 2   Ud 8, Bàhiyasutta.

 3   Sn 813, Jaràsutta.

 4   Sn 757, Dvayatànupassanàsutta; see sermon 13.

 5   A IV 386, Samiddhisutta; see sermon 12.

 6   See sermons 12 and 13.

 7   M I 3, Målapariyàyasutta.

 8   See sermon 13.

 9   According to A I 24 Bàhiya was outstanding for his khippàbhi¤¤à.

10  See sermon 13.

11  See sermon 10.

12  A II 246, Catutthavohàrasutta.

13 Vism 21.

14  The term occurs e.g. at M I 480, Tevijjavacchagottasutta; at M II 173,    

      Cankãsutta; and at A II 115, Patodasutta.

15  M III 245, Dhàtuvibhaïgasutta.

16  M III 29, Chabbisodhanasutta.

17  Ud-a 90.

18  S IV 174, âsãvisasutta.

19  Ud 9, Bàhiyasutta.

20  Ud-a 98.

21  See sermon 1.

22  D I 223, Kevaóóhasutta.

23  See sermons 5, 7 and 9.

24  S I 6, Natthiputtasamasutta.

25  A II 139, Pabhàsutta; see sermon 7.

26  E.g. S II 45, Bhikkhusutta; or A II 178, Ummaggasutta.

27  Ud 9, Bàhiyasutta.

28  See sermon 9.

29  M III 71, Mahàcattàrãsakasutta.

30  M I 301, CåëaVedallasutta.

31  M I 108, Madhupiõóikasutta.

32  A I 10, Accharàsaïghàtavagga.