Purification of the Way (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

To talk about the purification of the way, we need to know about the Ten insight knowledge. These are:

[1] Knowledge of comprehension – Sammasanañānam
[2] Knowledge of rising & fall of formations (khandas) – Udayabbayañānam
[3] Knowledge of the dissolution of formations – bhangañānam.
[4] Knowledge of dissolving things as fearful – bhayañānam.
[5] Knowledge of fearful things as dangerous – ādīnavañānam.
[6] Knowledge of disenchantment with all formations – nibbidāñānam
[7] Knowledge of desire for deliverance – mūncitukamyatāñānam
[8] Knowledge of reflecting contemplation – patisankhāñānam
[9] Knowledge of equanimity towards formations – sankhārupekkhāñānam
[10] Knowledge of conformity – anulomañānam

After the 1st & 2nd insight knowledge of comprehension & rise & fall (overcoming the insight corruptions), the yogi arrives on the right path. It now matures & develops with increased strength & clarity. The mature knowledge of rising & fall to the knowledge of equanimity (i.e., the eight knowledges) are referred to as purification of the way.

This is walking in the right way to Nibbāna. From here to the end, will see Nibbāna, which is a purification of knowledge & vision. Between them is a bridge called knowledge of conformity (10th). Between 6th & 7th, purification is a bridge. Why there is a bridge between them? This side & that side are not the same. All the insight knowledges are with conditioned objects (saṅkhāra).

Therefore it can be said to have the same object (i.e., saṅkhāra). Crossing from 6th to 7th purification, the object is changed. These are with saṅkhāra objects & without saṅkhāra objects. Saṅkhāra objects are arising by conditions. Therefore these are impermanent & changing all the times. These are arising & passing away with disappearing. It is stressing dukkha. We cannot do anything for it, therefore not-self (anatta).

At the 6th purification, the yogi has to be practiced for maturity but dealing with unstable phenomena. After crossing over to the other side, no more arising & passing away phenomena. If impermanence exists & dukkha exists. If dukkha exists & anatta exists. The bridge which connects the two is knowledge of conformity – anulomañānam or saccanulomikañānam (also rendered as adaptation).

From knowledge of rising & fall to the knowledge of conformity have nine knowledges. Insight knowledge is at this side & the other side is Nibbāna. For arriving at the other side & have to practice from this side. So it is very reasonable & systematic. Not an imagination & it is very practical indeed. But the yogi is not easy to attain it. He must persevere without giving up the practice.

So the Buddha was encouraging yogis to have the courage & exertion until the bones & skin dried up without giving up. Some people criticize this as mortification in practice. These are lazy people. If it is the right path, then not mortification. The wrong path without any beneficial result can be defined in this way. Also, the Buddha mentioned this way. Doing impossible things are wrong & possible things are right.

At the time of the Buddha, some had attainments easily & some with difficulty. It depended on the person. Not only for common people. In the Buddhavamsa (History of the Buddhas), even bodhisattas were not the same. Some of them went to the garden & asked people to leave. Within a short period of practice & became a Buddha. It was very easy going. It was not like the Buddha Gautama, who had difficulties with hard practice.

Some Buddhas did not need to go alms round anywhere. Everyday received foods at the King’s palace. What kinds of prayers, paramis & practices had been done by them before? Everyone would like it. There are four kinds of a yogi, with their nature of practice & attainment. These are

[1] difficult practice with quick attainment
[2] easy practice with slow attainment
[3] difficult practice with slow attainment
[4] easy practice with quick attainment.

As examples; Mahā-moggallana was in the 1st type, and Sariputta was in the 4th type.

After the 5th purification of path & not-path, the yogi continues his contemplation of anicca. The present moment anicca is referred to this level. (i.e., udayabbaya ñānam onwards). Not before, the knowledge of comprehension. Why not seeing or discerning anicca? Because they cannot discern the moment of arising & passing away. E.g., in-breath & out-breath, the whole in-breath & the whole out-breath, each of the process between them have spaces or gaps.

The feelings (vedana) are also the same, with segments between them. Sounds are also the same nature. The first word of the sound or voice disappears & the 2nd word arises, with its disappearance & the 3rd word arises, etc.… It is happening with non-stop continuously like a machine gun. If we listen carefully with observation, & there are many-dek-dek-dek- etc. between them. When with sati & samādhi powers developed will discern them.

Movie film is also another good example. With the slow motions, we can see the movements of the character part by part. The permanent view & thought come in because we cannot discern anicca. It was covered up by the very quick process. Therefore we have to discern the arising & passing away.

We should not follow it with the concept of anicca, anicca, etc. without direct seeing it. Knowing the segments between them is discerning the nature of anicca. Why do not we know dukkha? Because of changing our postures frequently that we do not know dukkha (i.e., the coarser dukkha)

Why do not we see not-self (anatta)? Because we only see the compactness, solidity, shape & form as a whole. For example, if we analyze a body or a car, will not see them as identity & the solidity of them. They are combined with the many parts of the object & become a body or a car. There are four kinds of compactness; continuity, combination, function & object of compactness.

They have one functioning, one object & one combination that people think of them as self (atta). We must able to contemplate each difference with analysis. With all these compositions that they can move & function.

Without it & they cannot function. Take an example of a human being. It is only the Mind & body process. If we separate the mind & body by themselves, it cannot function & move. It will be a dead body. It was like a puppet, without the strings, and it cannot move. For the discerning, we use knowledge or analytical knowledge to separate them, and the nature of not-self appears.

In these ways, we can contemplate the three universal characteristics. We must able to see in details connecting with the sense objects. What are the differences between anicca, dukkha & anatta? It is changing that or unstable that anicca. It is oppressing with the change that dukkha. There is no me & mine that emptiness (suññā) or not follow with one’s wishes that not-self (anatta).

The three words, anicca, dukkha & anatta, refer to the five khandhas. What are the characteristics (lakkhana) referring to? These are referring to their situations. E.g., arising & passing away is its aspect (character or nature). Lakkhana (characteristic) is the sign or mark of the phenomena (dhamma).

Seeing lakkhana is seeing anicca. It cannot be separated, but only explain in this way. They are connected. Therefore anicca, dukkha & anatta are the five khandas. Lakkhanas are their aspects (character or nature). Knowing these clearly & the yogi knows rise & fall (udayabbaya ñānam).

If knowledge becomes sharp, even not aware of the arising, the yogi is only seeing them as quickly passing away. He can only can aware of the disappearing or contemplate the dissolution (bhanganupassanā ñānam). It is arriving at the climax of anicca. As an example, the yogi knows the arising & passing away of in-breath & out-breath, & also the following mind knows the contemplative mind.

The meaning here is the contemplated object & the contemplative mind; both of them are passing away. If not the yogi will only take the contemplated object as anicca & the contemplative mind as nicca (permanent) (the Wrong view can be developed from practice by misinterpreting one’s own experience. Some of the wrong views mentioned in the Brahmajala Sutta & some of the new Buddhists ideas and views came from this kind of misinterpretations).

Therefore all the following arising minds are also passing away. A dead body & a living body are the same things. After die or pass away, both of them never come back again. It was like all of them jumping into the abyss, & gone forever. Later arising phenomena are the new ones.

The older ones will never be seen again. Seeing in this way becomes fearful of them. Indeed it is fearful when the khandhas are dissolving. It is the knowledge of dissolving things as fearful (bhayañānam). Only seeing their faults & cannot find any goodness in them. So the yogi sees them as dangerous (ādīnavañānam). And then he becomes disenchanted with them (knowledge of disenchantment with all formations – nibbidāñānam).

This is in the process of letting go of craving & attachment in life or purifying them. And then the yogi wants to cast off the burden of dukkha. This is the knowledge of desire for deliverance (mũncitukamyatā ñānam). Then the yogi reflects on how to let go of them.

This is the knowledge of reflecting contemplation (patisankhā ñānam). And then the mind becomes calm & can observe with equanimity, without like or dislike. The yogi arrives at the knowledge of equanimity towards formations. (sankhārupekkha ñānam). Up to this level are different levels of insight knowledge (These are the 6th purification).

Change of lineage (gotrabhū) is nothing to do with this side or the other side. This is the point between the bridge. But it sees Nibbāna because it has let go of conditioned objects (saṅkhāra arammanas). Therefore it sees Nibbāna. The change-of-lineage consciousness (gotrabhū citta), having Nibbāna as its object occurs, overcoming the lineage of worldling & evolving as the lineage of the noble one.

Immediately after this, the path of stream-entry arises. It cut off the fetters of wrong views, doubt, & adherence of rites & ceremonies as realization. The yogi becomes a stream-winner (sotāpanna). He has no more than seven lives or existence to come. He is already on the path (8 factors path) & never returns backward.

It means he will never become a worldling (phuthujjana) back again. With the path knowledge arises, the yogi fully understands the truth of dukkha, abandoning the truth of its origin, realizing the truth of its cessation, & developing the truth of the path to its cessation.

This is the yogi seeing the noble truths (4 noble truths) directly. In this Maṅgala Sutta the Buddha not only referred to the first stage of enlightenment – the path of stream-entry, it included all the four stages of attainment, i.e., the stream-enterer (sotāpanna), the once-returner (sakatāgāmī), the non-returner (anāgāmi) & arahant.

But for a stream-enterer, the following attainments are not difficult for him like before. He can continue his practice with the eight path factors & will realize the final Nibbāna (arahantship) by stages. Even the first stage of attainment is the great blessing for the yogi because his dukkha is only seven drops of water if compare with the great volume of water in the great ocean which is dukkha for a worldling. Therefore the Buddha said seeing the noble truths is the highest blessing.

Nowadays, Buddhists are encountering the teachings & practices that should endeavor on the Noble Eightfold Path to see the noble truths of ending dukkha. To embark on the practice, it needs strong saṁvega (sense of urgency) for transcending dukkha. For this purpose, we must

Study & contemplate some of the discourses in the Saccasamyutta – Connected Discourses on the Truths. If we know the faults of not seeing the truths (saccas) which bring dangers & sufferings, etc. & the benefits by seeing the truths which bring peace & happiness, etc. This can be only possible by studying Dhamma & contemplation or reflection. In contemplation, we can use current situations around the world.

According to the Buddha now we are in the interim aeon (antarakappa). It is the period required for the life span of human beings to rise from 10 years to the maximum of many thousands of years. And then it falls back to 10 years. Nowadays we human beings are in the period of decline, which is falling back to 10 years of life span. Why does this happen? It is relating to human moral behaviors or cause & effect phenomena.

With immoral behaviours, it is affecting nature & human societies. Now we can observe & see all the human problems & suffering around the world. All sorts of pollution, such as air, water, earth & mind pollutions going on & on. World politics are also not a good sign. A lot of instability & internal wars going on in many parts of the world.

All these wars are becoming longer, dangerous & killing a lot of innocent civilians, creating a refugee crisis in Europe & Africa. Even we have the United Nations to solve all these problems, but it does not have the power to do it. Because it was exploited & misused powers by some of the superpowers which controlled the security council.

These people made all the crises more serious & harming a lot of innocent people. If talking about all the worldly problems, it will never end. And most people already know it. Human destructive power is more & greater because of science & technology developments. Material progress is not a problem. The problem is misusing it. Some natural problems are human beings cannot escape, such as birth, aging, sickness & death. But human-made problems which we can be avoided.

To solve human problems have to base on moral virtues as a foundation & not by immoral behaviors. With the moral foundation, we have to develop the mind. Even interim aeon is like a cycle rising & falling by human behaviours. We can have the chances to change it. It does not mean to change the whole process backward again.

We can make it not degenerates very quickly. Because human destiny is in the human mind. Our mind is our creator & not in the external. Everything happens through the law of cause & effect. If human beings have moral behavior & virtues, it will change towards the good direction.

Living beings are wandering in the round of existence with uncertainty. Because most of them cannot control their minds and usually they are following the desire of the unwholesome dhammas. Also, the untrained mind is taking pleasure in unwholesomeness. If we check, nowadays many media will see this point easily. Therefore the Buddha said that most living beings frequent homes were the 4 woeful planes (apāyabhūmi); i.e.

[1] hell (niraya) the place of the most intense suffering,
[2] The animal kingdom,
[3] the sphere of petas (hungry ghosts)
[4] the host of asuras (a group of tormented spirits).

There is an important Dhamma for contemplation to develop saṁvega is the four meanings of the truth of suffering (dukkha sacca). These are:

[1] Pilanato (oppressive)
[2] Saṅkhatato (conditioning)
[3] Santapato (burning)
[4] Viparinamāto (change).

The four meanings are connected. The main meaning of dukkha is pilanato – oppressive. The five khandhas are oppressive to one who gets it. The four meanings of dukkha effect on people can be different. One of the very extensive dukkha is conditioning dukkha (sankhatato).

This conditioning dukkha is oppressing beings without any rest. If we observe the animals around us also can discern this terrible dukkha. Most human beings take this dukkha as happiness that even looking for & changing for it. How much stupid, indeed? It is very important to contemplate on dukkha very often as a practice in our daily life, from the experiences within us & with others.

There is no other dukkha greater than clinging to the five khandhas. Therefore the Buddha said or emphasized that he taught only dukkha & the end of dukkha. The past Buddhas were also taught these. In the future to come, all the Buddha will also teach the same things. To penetrate dukkha is more important than anything else. Therefore the Buddha said; seeing the noble truths was the greatest blessing.

cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36995#p36995 (posted on 2019-11-22)

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