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

revised on 2020-06-30

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—Sammasanañāṇa
(2) Knowledge of rise and fall of formations (khandhas)—Udayabbaya-ñāṇa (udayabbayānupassanāñāṇa)
(3) Knowledge of the dissolution of formations—bhaṅga-ñāṇa (bhaṅgānupassanāñāṇa).
(4) Knowledge of dissolving things as fearful—bhayato-upaṭṭhāna ñāṇa (bhayatupaṭṭhānañāṇa).
(5) Knowledge of fearful things as dangerous—ādīnava-ñāṇa (ādīnavānupassanāñāṇa).
(6) Knowledge of disenchantment with all formations—nibbidā-ñāṇa (nibbidānupassanāñāṇa)
(7) Knowledge of desire for deliverance—muñcitukamyatā-ñāṇa (muñcitukamyatāñāṇa)
(8) Knowledge of reflecting contemplation—paṭisaṅkhā-ñāṇa (paṭisaṅkhānupassanāñāṇa)
(9) Knowledge of equanimity towards formations—saṅkhārupekkhā-ñāṇa (saṅkhārupekkhāñāṇa)
(10) Knowledge of conformity—anuloma-ñāṇa (saccānulomikañāṇa, anuloma-ñāṇa)

After the first and second insight knowledge of comprehension and rise and fall (overcoming the insight corruptions), the yogi arrives at the right path. It now matures and develops with increased strength and clarity. The mature knowledge of rise and 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, the yogi will see Nibbāna, which is a purification of knowledge and vision. Between them is a bridge called knowledge of conformity (10th). Between sixth and 7th, purification is a bridge. Why is there a bridge between them? This side and that side are not the same. All the insight knowledge is with conditioned objects (saṅkhāra).

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

At the sixth purification, the yogi has to be practiced for maturity but dealing with unstable phenomena. After crossing over to the other side, no more arising and passing away phenomena. If impermanence exists and dukkha exists. If dukkha exists and anatta exists. The bridge which connects the two is knowledge of conformity—anuloma-ñāṇa or saccānulomikañāṇa (also rendered as adaptation).

From knowledge of rising and fall to the knowledge of conformity have nine knowledge. Insight knowledge is at this side, and the other side is Nibbāna. For arriving at the other side and have to practice from this side. So, it is very reasonable and 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 and exertion until the bones and 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 and possible things are right.

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

Some Buddhas did not need to go alms round anywhere. They received foods at the King’s palace every day. What kinds of prayers, pāramīs and practices had been done by them before? Everyone would like it. There are four kinds of a yogi, with their nature of practice and 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; Mahāmoggallāna was in the first type, and Sāriputta was in the fourth type.

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

The feelings (vedanā) are also the same, with segments between them. Sounds are also the same nature. The first word of the sound or voice disappears, and the second word arises, with its disappearance and the third word arises, etc. It is happening with non-stop continuously like a machine gun. If we listen carefully with observation, and there are many dek-dek-dek etc. between them. When samādhi powers developed with sati, one 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 and thought come in because we cannot discern anicca. It was covered up by the very quick process. Therefore, we have to discern the arising and 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 and form as a whole. For example, if we analyze a body or a car, will not see them as identity and the solidity of them. They are combined with the many parts of the object and become a body or a car. There are four kinds of compactness; continuity, combination, function and object of compactness.

They have one functioning, one object and one combination that people think of them as self (atta). We must be able to contemplate each difference with analysis. With all these compositions, they can move and function; otherwise, they cannot function. Take an example of a human being. It is only the mind and body process. If we separate the mind and body by themselves, it cannot function and 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 be able to see in detail connecting with the sense objects. What are the differences between anicca, dukkha and anatta? It is changing or unstable for anicca. It is oppressing with the change for dukkha. There are no “me” and “mine” [That is emptiness (suññatā)] or not following with one’s wishes for not-self (anatta).

The three words, anicca, dukkha and anatta, refer to the five khandhas. What are the characteristics (lakkhaṇa) referring to? These are referring to their situations. For example, arising and passing away is its aspect (character or nature). Lakkhaṇa (characteristic) is the sign or mark of the phenomena (dhamma).

Seeing lakkhaṇa is seeing anicca. It cannot be separated, but only explain in this way. They are connected. Therefore, anicca, dukkha and anatta are the five khandhas. Lakkhaṇas are their aspects (character or nature). Knowing these clearly, the yogi knows rise and fall (udayabbaya ñāṇa).

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

The meaning here is the contemplated object and the contemplative mind; both of them are passing away. If not, the yogi will only take the contemplated object as anicca and the contemplative mind as nicca (permanent) [The wrong view can be developed from practice by misinterpreting one’s own experience. Some wrong views were mentioned in the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN.1 Brahmajālasuttaṃ) and some new Buddhist ideas and views came from this kind of misinterpretations.]

Therefore, all the following arising minds are also passing away. A dead body and a living body are the same things. After dying or passing away, both of them never come back again. It was like all of them jumping into the abyss, and 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 (bhayatupaṭṭhānañāṇa). Only seeing their faults and cannot find any goodness in them. So, the yogi sees them as dangerous (ādīnava-ñāṇa). And then he becomes disenchanted with them (knowledge of disenchantment with all formations—nibbidā-ñāṇa).

This is in the process of letting go of craving and 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 (muñcitukamyatā ñāṇa). Then the yogi reflects on how to let go of them.

This is the knowledge of reflecting contemplation (paṭisaṅkhā ñāṇa). And then the mind becomes calm and can observe with equanimity, without like or dislike. The yogi arrives at the knowledge of equanimity towards formations. (saṅkhārupekkhā ñāṇa). Up to this level are different levels of insight knowledge (these are the sixth purification.).

Change of lineage (gotrabhū) is nothing to do with this side or the other side. This is the point between the two ends of the bridge. But it sees Nibbāna because it has let go of conditioned objects (saṅkhāra ārammaṇas). Therefore, it sees Nibbāna. The change-of-lineage consciousness (gotrabhū citta), having Nibbāna as its object occurs, overcoming the lineage of worldling and 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, and adherence of rites and ceremonies as realization. The yogi becomes a stream-enterer (sotāpanna). He has no more than seven lives or existence to come. He is already on the path (the path of the Noble Eightfold Path) and never returns backward.

It means he will never become a worldling (puthujjana) 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, and developing the truth of the path to its cessation.

This is the yogi seeing the noble truths (The Four 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 (sakadāgāmī), the non-returner (anāgāmi) and 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 and 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 and 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 and contemplate some discourses in the Saccasaṁyutta—Connected Discourses on the Truths. If we know the faults of not seeing the truths (saccas) which bring dangers and sufferings, etc. and the benefits by seeing the truths which bring peace and happiness, etc. This can be only possible by studying Dhamma and 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 the life span. Why does this happen? It is relating to human moral behaviors or cause and effect phenomena.

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

All these wars are becoming longer, dangerous and killing a lot of innocent civilians, creating a refugee crisis in Europe and 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 and misused powers by some superpowers which controlled the security council.

These people made all the crises more serious and 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 and greater because of science and 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 and death. But human-made problems which we can be avoided.

To solve human problems has to base on moral virtues as a foundation and not by immoral behaviors. With the moral foundation, we have to develop the mind. The interim aeon is even like a cycle rising and 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 degenerate very quickly. Human destiny is in the human mind because our mind is our creator and not in the external. Everything happens through the law of cause and effect. If human beings have moral behavior and 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 four woeful planes (apāya‐bhūmi); 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) Pīḷana (oppressive)
(2) Saṅkhata (conditioning)
(3) Santappati (burning)
(4) Vipariṇāma (change).

The four meanings are connected. The main meaning of dukkha is pīḷana—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 dukkhas is conditioning dukkha (saṅkhata).

This conditioning dukkha is oppressing beings without any rest. If we observe the surrounding animals, we also can discern this terrible dukkha. Most human beings take this dukkha as happiness that even looking for and 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 and 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 and 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.

revised on 2020-06-30; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36995#p36995 (posted on 2019-11-22)

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