The Seven Purifications

Meditation Mastery Secrets

Meditation Mastery Secrets

Get Instant Access

The path to deliverance, usually expounded in terms of the three trainings in morality, concentration and wisdom, is sometimes divided further into seven stages called the seven purification (sattavisuddhi). The canonical basis for this system is the Rathavinlta Sutta (MN. No.24) and the Patisambhidamagga. The scheme claims special prominence in the Theravada commentarial tradition since it forms the framework for the Visuddhimagga. As such it comes to the forefront in every discussion of the progressive stages of Buddhist meditation.

According to this scheme in order to attain full liberation the meditator has to pass through seven kinds of purification. The seven are: [1] purification of morality (sTla visuddhi)1, [2] purification of mind (citta visuddhi)1, [3] purification of view (ditthi visuddhi)1, [4] purification by the over

coming of doubt (kankhavitarana visuddhi)1, [5] purification by knowledge and vision of the right and wrong paths (maggamaggananadassana visuddhi); [6] purification by knowledge and vision of the way (patipadananadassana visuddhi); and [7] purification by knowledge and vision (na-nadassana visuddhi). The Abhidhammattha Saiigaha recognizes several other sets of terms essential to the development of wisdom - the three characteristics of phenomena, the three contemplations, the ten kinds of insight knowledge, the three liberations, and the three doors to liberation;1 but since these all come in the scope of the seven purification we can take the latter as the basis for our discussion, mentioning the others when they become relevant.

1. Purification of Morality (silavisuddhi)

The purification of morality is identical with the training in the higher moral discipline (adhisilasikkha). It consists in the fourfold purification of morality already discussed, i.e. restraint according to the rules of the Patimokkha, restraint of the senses, purity of livelihood, and purity in the use of requisites.2 This is the foundation for the growth of insight just as much as for the development of serenity.

2. Purification of Mind (citta visuddhi)

Purification of mind coincides with the training in concentration (samadhi) or higher consciousness (adhicittasik-kha). It is defined as the eight attainments of absorption together with access concentration. The samathayanika yogin accomplishes purification of mind by achieving access or full absorption in one or several jhanas, thereby suppressing the five hindrances. The vipassanayanika disciple, as we noted, achieves purification of mind by means of mo

mentary concentration, which as it overcomes the hindrances can be subsumed under access concentration.

3. Purification of view (ditthi visuddhi)

The remaining five purifications pertain to the training in wisdom. The first four belong to the mundane portion of the path or insight-wisdom (vipassana-panna), the last to the supramundane portion or the wisdom of the noble path (magga-nana).

Purification of view aims at obtaining a correct perspective on the nature of individual existence. Buddhism teaches that it is the wrong grasp of existence, crystallized in the view of a substantial self, that keeps the unenlightened chained to samsara. To reach liberation this delusive view has to be dissolved by purified view, which from the Buddhist standpoint means comprehending the so-called individual as a compound of evanescent material and mental phenomena without any inner core of substance or selfhood. Purification of view is achieved by bringing these phenomena into focus, defining them in terms of their salient characteristics and functions, and using this knowledge to remove the erroneous view of a self-subsistent ego.

The samathayanika and vipassanayanika approach this purification from different angles, though the end result is the same for both. The former, after emerging from any fine material or immaterial j liana except the last (which is too subtle for analysis), discerns its j liana factors and their concomitants in the light of their specific characteristics, functions, manifestations, and proximate causes. He then defines all these states as "mentality" (nama). He next discerns the physical basis for these mental phenomena, the matter of the heart (hadayarupa),1 as well as the remaining

1. The ancient Indian physiology, accepted by the Buddhist commentarial tradition, identified the heart with the seat of consciousness. In the canonical texts primary and secondary kinds of material phenomena. These he groups together under the heading of "materiality" (rupa). He thus perceives the living being as a composite of mentality and materiality, namarupa, without an over-ruling self hidden within or behind it.

The vipassanayanika begins to purify his view by analyzing the body into the four primary elements - solidity, fluidity, heat, and oscillation. After defining these in terms of their characteristics, he repeats the procedure for the other material phenomena, defining them all as materiality. He then turns to the states of consciousness and their principal concomitants, defining them and grouping them under the heading of "mentality." Thus, like the first kind of yogin, he eventually arrives at the realization that the living being is merely a compound of mutually supporting mental and physical phenomena apart from which there is no separate entity to be identified as a "self," "being," or "person."

The process of analysis can be undertaken using as basis the five aggregates, the twelve sense bases (the six sense faculties including mind and their six respective objects), the eighteen elements (six objects, six faculties, and six consciousnesses), or any other mode of classification. In the end all are defined in terms of mentality and materiality, resulting in the removal of the view of a self-identical ego.

4. Purification by Overcoming Doubt (kankhavitarana-visuddhi)

Once the disciple has overcome the false view of a self by discerning the living being as a compound of material and mental phenomena, he next sets out to overcome doubts concerning this compound by investigating the causes and no such identification is made. Reference is only made to "that matter in dependence on which mind and mind-consciousness occur." See Narada, Manual., pp. 292-93.

conditions for mentality-materiality. He understands that the mind-body combination is neither causeless nor created by any single cause but arises due to a multiplicity of causes and conditions. He first seeks out the causes and conditions for the body and discovers that the body is brought into being by four causes operating from the past -ignorance, craving, clinging, and kamma - and sustained in the present by nutriment as its primary present condition. He then turns his attention to mentality, and finds that all mental phenomena come into being in dependence on conditions, such as sense organs, sense objects, and conascent mental factors, as well as through the defilements and kamma accumulated in the past. When he sees that the present occurrence of mentality-materiality is due to causes and conditions, he infers that the same principle applied to its occurrence in the past and will apply to its occurrence in the future. In this way he overcomes all doubt and uncertainty regarding the conditioned origination of mind and matter in the three periods of time.

By discerning the conditional basis for the mental-material compound, the yogin arrives at the realization that the course of existence is merely a succession of active kammic processes and passive resultant processes. The aggregates occurring in the past ceased immediately after arising but gave rise to aggregates occurring in the present. The aggregates occurring now will cease in the present and give rise to aggregates occurring in the future. There is nothing permanent passing through this succession. It is merely a sequence of phenomena acting and experiencing without an agent over and above the actions or a subject over and above the experiences.

5. Purification by Knowledge and Vision into the Right and Wrong Paths (maggâmagganânadassanavisuddhi)

Before the next purification can arise several intermediate steps are necessary. Firstly, after dispelling his doubts by the knowledge of conditionality, the disciple undertakes the form of insight called "comprehension by groups" (kalâpa-sammasana). Comprehension by groups involves collecting all phenomena into distinct categories and defining them in terms of the three characteristics. Thus the disciple contemplates all material form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness as impermanent, all as suffering, and all as not self, each being a separate comprehension.

As the Patisambhidâmagga states:

Any materiality whatever, whether past, future or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near - he defines all materiality as impermanent: this is one kind of comprehension. He defines it as painful: this is one kind of comprehension. He defines it as not self: this is one kind of comprehension. Any feeling whatever,... Any perception whatever,... Any formations whatever,... Any consciousness whatever,... - he defines all consciousness as impermanent:... He defines it as not self.1

This same method of comprehension can be applied not only to the five aggregates but to any categorical scheme for classifying the constituents of experience - the six

1. PP., 706. "Yam kind rupam atïtânâgata paccuppannam ajjhattam va bahiddâ va olârikam va sukhumam va panïtam va yam dure santike va, sabbam rflpam aniccato vavattheti ekam sammasanam, dukkhato vavattheti ekam sammasanam, anattato vavattheti ekam sammsanam. Yâ kanci vedanâ... yâ kanci san-na... ye ked sankhârâ... yam kind vinnânam atïtânâgatapaccuppannam ajjhattam va bahiddhâ va olârikam vâ sukhumam vâ hïnam vâ panïtam vâ yam dure santike vâ, sabbam vinnânam aniccato vavattheti ekam sammasanam, dukkhato vavattheti, ekam sammasanam, anattato vavattheti, ekam sammasanam." Pts., p. 51.

sense doors, the six objects, the six kinds of consciousness, six contacts, six feelings, six perceptions, six volitions, the twelve sense bases, the eighteen elements, etc. The four jhanas, four divine abidings (brahmaviharas), and four immaterial attainments are also included. Since the text advises a beginner to develop comprehension by contemplating those states that are readily discernible by him, a sama-thayanika yogin will generally choose as his object of comprehension a jhana he has achieved and mastered; this becomes his sammasitajjhana, as we explained above.

Whatever objects he selects as material for comprehension, the disciple must understand the precise way they embody the three characteristics. Firstly, they are all impermanent in the sense that they are subject to destruction (khay-atthena). Nothing that comes into being is able to last forever, but whatever arises is bound to eventually pass away. Secondly, they are all suffering in the sense of being fearful (bhayatthena). Since all composite phenomena are impermanent they cannot provide any lasting contentment or security, but when held to with clinging are a potential source of suffering to be regarded as harmful and fearful. And thirdly, they are all selfless in the sense of being coreless (asaratthena). Composite phenomena, being compounded by conditions, lack any inner essence that can be conceived as a self, inner agent or subject, and thus are empty of a core.1

When the meditator succeeds in comprehending the various groups in terms of the three characteristics, he acquires comprehension-knowledge, sammasananana. This marks the actual beginning of insight. According to the Abhid-hammattha Sangaha comprehension knowledge is the first

of the ten kinds of insight-knowledge through which a vi-passana-practitioner has to pass.1

From comprehension-knowledge the disciple passes on to knowledge of contemplation of rise and fall (udayabbaya-nupassananana). This knowledge, defined simply as "understanding of contemplating present states, change,"2 is gained by contemplating the presently existent five aggregates as characterized by rise and fall. In brief, it arises by seeing the rise of the aggregates in their characteristic of generation, birth, or arising, and their fall in their characteristic of change, destruction, or dissolution. In greater detail, it involves perceiving the arising of each aggregate through its specific conditions and its cessation through the cessation of these conditions. Focussing in more closely on the present process, the meditator realizes that present phenomena, not having been, are brought into being, and that having been they immediately vanish. Formations appear to him as instantaneous, coming into being and passing away with inconceivable rapidity, perpetually renewed.3

When he gains this initial understanding of rise and fall the meditator has arrived at tender insight (tarunavipassana). At this point, as a result of his successful practice, ten unprecedented experiences are likely to arise in him. Because they can impede his progress, these are called the ten imperfections of insight (vipasanupakkilesa). The ten are: illumination, knowledge, rapture, tranquility, happiness, resolution, exertion, mindfulness, equanimity, and attachment.4 If he is not cautious the unwary meditator can misinterpret these occurrences and think that he has reached one of the

4. PP., pp. 739ff. "Obhasa, nana, piti, passaddhi, sukha, adhimokkha, paggaha, upatthana, upekkha, nikanti." Vism., pp. 544-45.

stages of enlightenment. Therefore novice yogins are advised not to allow themselves to be deterred by such occurrences but to recognize them for what they are: by-products of insight which can become impediments if wrongly adhered to. The skilled meditator contemplates them as bare phenomena - impermanent, suffering, and selfless. He distinguishes the right path from the wrong, realizing that these ten states are not the path but distractions; insight-knowledge free from imperfections is the path. The knowledge that is established in him by making this distinction is the purification by knowledge and vision into the right and wrong paths.

6. Purification by Knowledge and Vision of the Way (patipadananadassana visuddhi)

Having relinquished attachment to the ten imperfections of insight and correctly distinguished the true path from the false, the disciple now enters upon a steady progression of insights which will lead him through increasingly deeper levels of understanding right up to the threshold of the su-pramundane path. These insights, nine in number, begin with mature knowledge of rise and fall and culminate in conformity knowledge (anulomanana), the pinnacle of mundane insight. Together with the previously accomplished comprehension-knowledge (sammasananana), these nine insights complete the ten kinds of insight-knowledge mentioned in the Abhidhammattha Sangaha.

Knowledge of contemplation of rise and fall (udayabbaya-nupassana-nana)

After distinguishing the right path from the wrong the meditator resumes the contemplation of rise and fall. Though he had previously cultivated this knowledge in part, his contemplation was disabled by the imperfections of insight and could not clearly observe the three characteristics. But now that the imperfections have been removed contemplation becomes extremely sharp, causing the three characteristics to stand out in bold relief. By attending to the rise and fall of formations the yogin sees the mark of impermanence - formations changing constantly at every moment, produced and stopped with inconceivable rapidity. As impermanence becomes more conspicuous suffering begins to stand out in its fundamental form, as continuous oppression by rise and fall. The yogin then realizes that whatever changes and causes suffering is insusceptible to the exercise of mastery, hence incapable of being identified as a self or the belongings of a self; this brings the understanding of the mark of selflessness into view. Having uncovered the three characteristics, the meditator sees that the so-called being is nothing but a becoming, a flux of evanescent, painful, impersonal happenings which does not remain the same for two consecutive moments.

Knowledge of contemplation of dissolution (bhanganu-passana-nana)

As the meditator persists in his contemplation of rise and fall, it becomes increasingly apparent that conditioned formations undergo three phases of becoming: a phase of arising (uppada), a phase of presence (thiti), and a phase of dissolution (bhanga). When he can discern these phases clearly, the yogin no longer extends his mindfulness to their arising or presence, but focusses exclusively upon the final phase - their momentary cessation, dissolution, or breaking up. He then sees how formations break up all the time "like fragile pottery being smashed, like fine dust being dispersed, like sesamum seeds being roasted."1 Applying his direct knowledge of present dissolution to the past and future, he

draws the inference that all past formations dissolved and all future ones will dissolve. Since dissolution is the culminating point of impermanence, the most salient aspect of suffering, and the strongest negation of selfhood, the three marks stand forth more distinctly than ever before. The whole field of formations thus becomes evident to contemplation as impermanent, suffering, and selfless. With the insight that formations break up constantly without a pause, and that this ceaseless process of momentary dissolution holds sway over the three periods of time, the meditator arrives at knowledge of contemplation of dissolution.

Knowledge of appearance as terror (bhayatupatthana-nana)

As he repeats and cultivates his insight into the destruction, fall, and breakup of formations, formations classed according to all kinds of becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode of beings, appear to him in the form of a great terror, as lions, tigers, leopards,... appear to a timid man who wants to live in peace.1

When he sees how past formations have ceased, present ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease, there arises in him knowledge of appearance as terror, born of the understanding that whatever is bound for destruction cannot be relied upon and is therefore fearful.

Knowledge of contemplation of danger (adlnavanupassana-nana)

The next stage of insight-knowledge arises naturally out of the previous one. As the meditator cultivates the knowledge of appearance as terror he finds that there is no shelter, protection, or refuge in any kind of becoming. He sees that since there is no shelter in any state of existence there is not

a single formation he can pin his hopes on: all hold nothing but danger. Then "the three kinds of becoming appear like charcoal pits full of glowing coals,... and all formations appear as a huge mass of dangers destitute of satisfaction or substance."1 The meditator discerns the potential danger in all existence just as a timid man sees the danger in a delightful forest thicket infested with wild beasts.2

The Patisambhidâmagga explains how the knowledge of appearance as terror (or the knowledge of the presence of fear) becomes the knowledge of danger thus:

Birth is fear - thus understanding in the presence of fear becomes knowledge of danger. Existence is fear... decay is fear... sickness is fear... death is fear... sorrow is fear... lamentation is fear... despair is fear, thus understanding in the presence of fear is knowledge of danger.3

Danger arises out of fearful conditions and fearful conditions give rise to danger. Birth, existence, decay, etc., being fearful states threaten danger to those exposed to them. For a meditator who perceives the dangers in all these fearful conditions, the knowledge of appearance as terror becomes transformed into the knowledge of contemplation of danger.

Knowledge of contemplation of dispassion (nibbidânu-passanâ-nâna)

Seeing the danger in all compounded things the meditator becomes dispassionate towards them. He finds no delight in any state of worldly existence but turns away from them

3. BMTP., p. 377. "Uppâdo bhayanti bhayatûpatthâne pannâ âdïnave nânam. Pavattim bhayanti... jarâ bhayanti... byâdhi bhayanti... maranam bhayanti... soko bhayanti... paridevo bhayanti... upâyâso bhayanti, bhayatûpatthâne pannâ âdïnave nânam." Pts., p. 377. SN. 4:173-75.

all. Even before he came to this knowledge the meditator had reduced his gross attachments but now, having seen the fear and danger in formations, he gains dispassion towards the five aggregates on account of their impermanent, fearful, and insecure nature. It should be noted that according to the Patisambhidamagga these last three insights - knowledge of terror, of danger, and of dispassion - represent phases of one kind of insight-knowledge apprehending its object in three different ways.1

Knowledge of desire for deliverance (muncitukamyata-nana)

When the meditator becomes dispassionate towards the formations in all the kinds of becoming, his mind no longer cleaves to them. The desire then arises in him to get rid of formations, to be released and liberated from them all. The knowledge that arises in association with this desire is knowledge of desire for deliverance.

Knowledge of contemplation of reflection (patisankhanu-passana-nana)

In order to be released from the whole field of conditioned phenomena the meditator returns to the contemplation of formations, examining them again and again in terms of impermanence, suffering and selflessness. Looking at them from a variety of angles in the light of the three characteristics, he sees formations as impermanent because they are non-continuous, temporary, limited by rise and fall, disintegrating, perishable, subject to change, etc.; as suffering because they are continuously oppressed, hard to bear, the basis of pain, a disease, a tumor, a dart, a calamity, an affliction, etc.; as not self because they are alien, empty, vain, void, ownerless, without an overlord, with none to wield

power over them, etc.1 This extended understanding of the three characteristics is the knowledge of contemplation of reflection.

Knowledge of equanimity about formations (sankhârupek-khâ-nâna)

To deepen his understanding of selflessness the meditator contemplates voidness (sunnata) in various ways. He sees that all compounds are empty of self or of anything belonging to a self, that nothing can be identified as "I" or as the property of an "I", as an "other" or as the property of an "other".2 Perceiving the voidness of selfhood in formations, the meditator abandons both terror and attachment. He develops instead a sense of detached equanimity:

This [meditator], wanting to get free from all formations, discerns formations by the contemplation of reflection; then, seeing nothing to be taken as T or 'mine', he abandons both terror and delight and becomes indifferent and neutral towards all formations.3

With the arising of this knowledge the disciple's mind retreats, retracts, and recoils from all the planes of becoming and no longer goes out to them "just as a fowl's feather or a shred of sinew thrown on a fire retreats, retracts, and recoils, and does not spread out."4 At this stage, if contemplation should perceive nibbâna, the meditator's goal, then it will reject formations and focus on nibbâna. But if it does not see nibbâna the meditator will continue in the knowledge of equanimity about formations until his contemplation acquires further maturity.

When the meditator's knowledge ripens and the move to the supramundane path becomes imminent, insight tends to settle down in one of the three contemplations - on imper-manence, suffering, or selflessness - as determined by the meditator's disposition. Because they lead directly to the liberating experience of the noble path, these contemplations, at the pinnacle of insight, are called the three gateways to liberation (tini vimokkhamukhani). The contemplation of impermanence becomes the gateway to the signless liberation (animitta vimokkha) for it directs the mind to nibbana as the signless element; the contemplation of suffering becomes the gateway to the desireless liberation (ap-panihitavimokkha) for it directs the mind to nibbana as the desireless element; and the contemplation of non-self becomes the gateway to the void liberation (sunnatavimok-kha) for it directs the mind to nibbana as the void element.

The liberation to which these contemplations are gateways is the supramundane path. Though one in essence the path gains three names according to the aspect of nibbana it fo-cusses upon. As Buddhaghosa explains:

And here the signless liberation should be understood as the noble path that has occurred by making nibbana its object through the signless aspect. For that path is signless owing to the signless element having arisen, and it is a liberation owing to deliverance from defilements. In the same way the path that has occurred by making nibbana its object through the desireless aspect is desireless. And the path that has occurred by making nibbana its object through the void aspect is void.1

1. PP., p. 768. "Ettha ca, animittavimokkho ti animittakarena nibbanam aram-manam katva pavatto ariyamaggo. So hi animittaya dhatuya uppannatta ani-mitto, kilesehi ca vimuttatta vimokkho. Eten'eva nayena appanihitakarena nibbanam arammanam katva pavatto appanihito, sunnatakarena nibbanam aram-manam katva pavatto sunnato ti veditabbo." Vism., p. 565.

The factor that determines which particular "gateway" will be entered and which liberation attained is the spiritual faculty predominant in the meditator's mental makeup. One with strong faith (saddha) tends to settle down in contemplation of impermanence, one with strong concentration (samàdhi) in the contemplation of suffering, and one with strong wisdom (panna) in the contemplation of selflessness; thereby they each attain the path of liberation corresponding to their specific contemplation. As it is said in the Patisambhidâmagga:

When one who has great resolution brings [formations] to mind as impermanent, he acquires the signless liberation. When one who has great tranquility brings [them] to mind as painful, he acquires the desireless liberation. When one who has great wisdom brings [them] to mind as not-self, he acquires the void liberation.1

Insight-knowledge that has reached its climax and is about to issue in the supramundane path is also known by another name, "insight leading to emergence" (vutthânagâminï-vipassanâ).2 This name covers three kinds of knowledge: fully matured equanimity about formations and the two that follow it - conformity knowledge (anuloma nana) and change-of-lineage knowledge (gotrabhû nana). The word "emergence" (vutthâna) signifies the supramundane path, which is called thus because externally it rises up from formations to apprehend nibbâna and internally it rises up from defilements and the aggregates consequent upon them to a state of complete purity. Since these last three kinds of

1. PP., p. 768. "Aniccato manasikaronto adhimokkhabahulo animittavimok-kham patilabhati. Dukkhato manasikaronto passaddhibahulo appanihitavimok-kham patilabhati. Anattato manasikaronto vedabahulo sunnatavimokkham patilabhati." Pts., p. 254.

mundane knowledge lead immediately to the path they are collectively named insight leading to emergence.

Conformity knowledge (anuloma-nana)

As the meditator cultivates equanimity about formations his faculties grow stronger and sharper. Then, at a certain point, the realization dawns that the path is about to arise. A thought-process of equanimity-knowledge occurs comprehending formations through one of the three characteristics - as either impermanent, or suffering, or selfless; the mind then sinks into the life-continuum (bhavanga). Following the life continuum there arises in the stream of consciousness a mind-door adverting (manodvaravajjana) apprehending formations as impermanent, or suffering, or selfless, in accordance with the previous process of equa-nimity-knowledge. Immediately after the adverting two or three impulsions occur making formations their object in terms of the same characteristic. The three are individually called "preliminary work" (parikamma), "access" (upa-cara), and "conformity" (anuloma), but they are most commonly collected under the group name "conformity." In very quick-witted meditators the moment of preliminary work is passed over and only the two moments of access and conformity occur. Conformity knowledge receives its name because it conforms to the functions of truth in the eight kinds of insight-knowledge preceding it and in the thirty-seven states partaking of enlightenment to follow.1 It is the last moment of insight-knowledge before the change over to the supramundane path supervenes.

7. Purification by Knowledge and Vision (nanadassanav-isuddhi)

Change-of lineage (gotrabhu)

The last purification, purification by knowledge and vision, consists of the knowledge of the four supramundane paths - the path of stream-entry, the path of the once-returner, the path of the non-returner, and the path of arahatship. However, immediately after conformity knowledge and before the moment of the first path, there occurs one thought-moment called change-of-lineage knowledge (gotrabhu-nana). This knowledge has the function of adverting to the path. Because it occupies an intermediate position it belongs neither to purification by knowledge and vision of the way nor to purification by knowledge and vision, but is regarded as unassignable. It receives the name "change-of-lineage" because by reaching this stage of knowledge the meditator "passes out of the lineage, the category, the plane, of the ordinary man (puthujjana) and enters the lineage, the category, the plane, of the Noble Ones."1 In bringing about such a radical transformation change-of-lineage is clearly a most important and crucial moment of spiritual development.

The three kinds of conformity knowledge - preliminary work, access, and conformity proper - dispel the "murk of defilements" that conceal the Four Noble Truths. Each of the three clears away a degree of delusion, permitting the truths to become more and more manifest. When the meditator reaches conformity knowledge nothing more needs to be done as preparation for the attainment of the first path. By arousing the insights ending in conformity he has com

1. PP., p. 785. "Puthujjanagottam puthujjanasankham puthujjanabhumim atik-kamamanam, ariyagottam ariyasankham ariyabhumim okkamamanam." Vism., p. 577.

pleted whatever he had to do. At this point his mind no longer holds to any formation, but turns away from the entire field of formations as all conditioned phenomena appear to him to be impediments. However, though conformity-knowledge dispels the delusion that conceals the truths, it cannot penetrate the truths. For the truths to be penetrated nibbana must be realized as object. Change-of-lineage knowledge, which arises right after conformity, is the first state of consciousness to make nibbana its object. It is the initial advertance to nibbana, functioning as the proximate, immediate and decisive-support condition for the arising of the first path.

The first path and fruit

Change-of-lineage knowledge perceives nibbana but cannot destroy the defilements. The eradication of defilements is the work of the four supramundane paths (lokuttaramagga). Each path attainment is a momentary experience apprehending nibbana, understanding the Four Noble Truths, and cutting off certain defilements. The first path, as Buddha-ghosa explains, arises in immediate succession to change-of-lineage:

...After, as it were, giving a sign to the path to come into being it [change-of-lineage] ceases. And without pausing after the sign given by that change-of-lineage knowledge the path follows upon it in uninterrupted continuity, and as it comes into being it pierces and explodes the mass of greed, the mass of hatred, and the mass of delusion, never pierced and exploded before.1

1. PP., pp. 787-88. "...Evam nibbattahi ti maggassa sannam datva viya niru-jjhati. Maggo pi tena dinnasannam amuncitva va avicisantativasena tam nanam anubandhamano anibbiddhapubbam apadalitapubbam lobhakkhandham dosak-khandham mohakkhandham nibbijjhamano va padalayamano va nibbattati." Vism., p. 579.

The first path is called the path of stream entry (sotapatti-magga) since the disciple who has reached this path has entered the stream of the Dhamma (dhammasota), the Noble Eightfold Path, which will take him to nibbana as surely as the waters in a stream will be carried to the ocean.1 On entering this path he has passed beyond the level of a worldling (puthujjana) and become a noble one, an ariyan, who has seen and understood the Dhamma for himself. The path gives him real experience of the seven noble treasures: faith, virtue, conscience, shame, learning, generosity, and wisdom.2 With the attainment of the path he acquires the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, abandons the eightfold wrong path, and is on the way to becoming a breast-born son of the Buddha.3

As the passage cited above makes clear, when the path-knowledge arises it breaks through the mass of greed, hatred, and delusion, the root-defilements which drive living beings from birth to birth in beginningless samsara. Each supramundane path has the special function of eradicating defilements. The defilements cut off by the successive paths are classified into a set of ten "fetters" (samyojana), so called because they keep beings chained to the round of existence. The ten fetters, which all arise out of the three unwholesome roots, are: [1] wrong views of personality (,sakkayaditthi), [2] doubt (vicikiccha), [3] clinging to rites and rituals (sllabbata paramasa), [4] sensual desire (kam-acchanda), [5] ill will (vyapada), [6] lust for fine material existence (ruparaga), [7] lust for immaterial existence (aru-paraga), [8] conceit (mana), [9] restlessness (uddhacca), and [10] ignorance (avijja). The ten are divided into two groups: the first five are called the fetters pertaining to the

2. "Saddha, sila, hiri, ottappa, suta, caga, panna." DN. 3:251.

lower worlds (orambhagiyani samyojanani) because they keep beings tied to the sensuous realms; the last five are called the fetters pertaining to the higher worlds (uddham-bhagiyani samyojanani) because they remain operative even in the fine material and immaterial realms.1 Some of these fetters - doubt, sensual desire, ill will, and restlessness - are identical in nature with the five hindrances abandoned by jhana. But whereas mundane j liana only suppresses the manifest eruptions of these defilements, leaving the latent tendencies untouched, the supramundane paths cut them off at the root. With attainment of the fourth path the last and subtlest of the fetters are eradicated. Thus the arahat, the fully liberated one, is described as "one who has eliminated the fetters of existence" (parikkhinabhavasam-yojana).2

The path of stream-entry eradicates the first three fetters -the fetters of false views of personality, doubt, and clinging to rites and rituals. The first is the view that the five aggregates can be identified with a self or can be seen as containing, contained in, or belonging to a self.3 The more theoretical forms of this view are attenuated by insight-knowledge into impermanence, suffering, and selflessness, but the subtle latent holding to such views can only be destroyed by path-knowledge. "Doubt" is uncertainty with regard to the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and the training; it is eliminated when the disciple sees for himself the truth of the Dhamma.4 "Clinging to rites and rituals" is the belief that liberation from suffering can be obtained merely by observing rites and rituals. Having followed the path to its climax, the disciple understands that the Noble Eightfold

Path is the one way to the end of suffering, and so can no more fall back on rites and rituals. The path of stream entry not only cuts off these fetters but also eliminates greed for sense pleasures and resentment that would be strong enough to lead to states of loss, i.e. to rebirth in the four lower realms of the hells, tormented spirits, animals, and titans.1 For this reason the stream-enterer is released from the possibility of an unfortunate rebirth.2

The path of stream-entry is followed by another occasion of supramundane experience called the fruit of stream entry (sotapatti-phala). Fruition follows immediately upon the path, succeeding it without a gap. It occurs as the result of the path, sharing its object, nibbana, and its world-trans-cending character. But whereas the path performs the active and demanding function of cutting off defilements, the fruit simply enjoys the bliss and peace that result from the path's completion of its function. Also, whereas the path is limited to only a single moment of consciousness, fruition covers either two or three moments. In the case of a quickwitted meditator who passes over the moment of preliminary work the cognitive process of the path contains only two moments of conformity knowledge. Thus in his thought-process, immediately after the path has arisen and ceased, three moments of fruition occur. In the case of an ordinary meditator there will be three moments of conformity knowledge and thus, after the path, only two moments of fruition.

The three moments of conformity knowledge and the moment of change-of-lineage are wholesome states of consciousness pertaining to the sense sphere (kamavacaraku-salacitta). The path consciousness and the fruition that

follows it are supramundane states of consciousness (lo-kuttara citta), the former wholesome (kusala) and the latter resultant (vipaka). The path and fruit necessarily occur at the level of one of the jhanas - from the first to the fourth jhana in the fourfold scheme, from the first to the fifth in the fivefold scheme. They partake of the character of jhana because they contain the jMna-factors endowed with an intensity of absorption corresponding to that of the fine material sphere jhanas. But unlike the mundane jhanas these jhanas of the path and fruit are supramundane, having an altogether different object and function than their counterparts, as we will see in the next chapter.

The following diagram illustrates the thought-process of the path and fruit of stream-entry in the case of a normal meditator with three moments of conformity preceding the path and two moments of fruition succeeding it: A B

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Meditation Mastery Breath Watching

Meditation Mastery Breath Watching

Discover How Breath Watching Meditation Turned My Mind From Cluttered To Laser Focus. You Can Get More Things Done When You’re Focus And Aware Of Your Mind.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment