Seeing the Noble Truths (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Seeing & knowing or understanding the 4 Noble Truths is the highest blessing & protection as the Buddha taught. It can be said the greatest blessing & protection of all the others because it transcends dukkha forever. The others are not transcending dukkha, but create good causes for wandering in the round of existence & supporting beings to have better lives.

Before to understand the 4 Noble Truths, have to understand the other truths. These are; samuti sacca (conventional truth) & paramattha sacca (ultimate truth).

For this purpose, I will quote from the talk given by Sayadaw Dr. Nandamalarbhivamsa. There are 2 concepts; atthapaññatti – concepts-as-meanings, & nāmapaññatti – concepts-as-names. Concepts-as-meanings are related to the body & form. Concepts-as-names are related to human voices/languages in symbols or letters.

There are also concepts which are non-existence, e.g., turtle hairs, rabbit horns, etc. Except for the concept of non-existence, other concepts are conventional truth. Ultimate truth has four; matter (rūpa), mind or consciousness (citta), mental factors (cetasika) & Nibbāna.

The nature of concepts is when the body or form changes & its name also changes, e.g. cotton becomes a thread, and the thread becomes cloth, etc. Analyze them with knowledge & the names disappear; then these are concepts. As an example, if we took off each part of a car body, then it is not a car anymore.

Objects of ultimate reality are not like this. Even their objects are changed their nature or qualities are not changed. E.g., the earth element in the cotton & the thread are the same; it does not change. The meaning of ultimate reality is unchanging essence. Concepts are true with the general consensus. Ultimate things are true with their nature.

Ledi Sayadawgyi divided the ultimate reality into two types;

(1) sabhava paramattha – intrinsic reality or ultimate truth (paramattha sacca)
(2) ariya paramattha – noble reality or noble truth (ariya sacca).

Even paramattha sacca – natural truth, from the point of noble truth, is still wrong. From the viewpoint of ultimate reality; analyze with knowledge and concepts become wrong. Why the Buddha urged people viewed things & matters with ultimate reality. Because viewing with concepts, they cannot abandon craving & clinging, the three types of feeling (vedana); pleasant, painful & neutral feelings (sukha, dukkha & upekkha vedana) are natural truth.

But all of them are the truth of unsatisfactoriness (dukkha sacca). The most pleasant jhānic feelings are also dukkha sacca. Because all of them are within the nature of 3 universal characteristics of inconstant, suffering & not-self, these are noble truth. Therefore from the viewpoint of noble truth, natural truth is still wrong for the ariyas.

In the Abhidhamma, teaching consciousness has 89 types. Combine with the jhānic mind or consciousness & become 121 types of mind. Mental factors are 52 types & it relies on the mind. Matters of forms are 28 types. All the cessation of causes, mind & matter is Nibbāna element. Only all beings arrive at the noble truth & become totally right or perfectly right.

So all living beings within these three levels of knowledge; the lowest, middle & highest. These are common worldlings (puthujjana), learned disciples of noble beings (sutava ariya savakos) & ariyan (noble beings). This point is very important for Buddhists in names. If we cannot become a learned disciple of noble beings and still at the level of common worldling & not a true Buddhist yet, with the practice & penetration of the 4 Noble Truths will become a noble person.

This is the highest blessing. There are two levels of knowledge of the 4 Noble Truths;

(1) Anubodha ñāna – contemplation knowledge.
(2) Pativeda ñāna – penetrative knowledge.

Anu- means contemplate for many times to understand the truth. Pativeda means penetrate thoroughly & there is no more for knowing.

The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are true all the times without time limits. These are true at anywhere & for every being. The Four Noble Truths are very profound & only a Buddha has arisen beings have the chances to know & practice them (exclude the Paccekabuddhas – Solitary-buddhas).

The Buddha started his teaching with the 4 Noble Truths in his first discourse. The Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta or Turning the Wheel of Dhamma. The Blessed One was dwelling at Bārānasi in the Deer Park at Isipatana; he delivered this talk to his first five disciples – the pañca-vaggi. Dhamma-cakka-Wheel of Dhamma has two knowledges in it. These are:

(1) The direct penetrative knowledge of the 4 Noble Truths – pativeda ñānam.
(2) The teaching knowledge of the 4 Noble Truths – Sacca desana ñānam.

Without knowing & direct penetrating the 4 Noble Truths that all living beings are wandering in the round of existence or becoming. The Buddha penetrated the Truths directly by himself (without a teacher) & taught to people.

Some people know, but they cannot teach people (e.g., Paccekabuddhas). The Buddha’s pativeda ñānam arose at Buddhagaya under the Bodhi Tree. He delivered his desana ñānam at Isipathana. The Buddha gave talks for four reasons. These were;

(1) With his wishes.
(2) By the spiritual faculties of beings
(3) Answering the questions
(4) Something happened.

Here he delivered the discourse for the 2nd reason. These teachings were never known & never heard before him. We can say it was new teaching at his time. It was not an easy teaching to come by. To become a Buddha at least it needed four incalculable aeons & ten thousand aeons to fulfilled the perfections (10 paramis).

Even in his last life was searching for the truths at a young age with many difficulties (see his autobiography in Mahāsaccaka Sutta & Ariyapariyesana Sutta, both in Majjima Nikāya).

At the beginning of the discourse, the Buddha said that there were two extremes should not be followed by monks. In Pali 2 anuyoga; should not be followed & done. In the 2nd time taught about the path should be followed & done.

The Buddha always taught two things; things should not be done first & things should be done in the 2nd. Because when doing wrong things sometimes difficult to change & the consequences are great. Even not doing right things are better than doing the wrong things & matters. In this Maṅgala Sutta, we see this example; not associate with the fools & associate with the wise. What are the two extremes should not be followed?

  1. The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures

By pursuing them, people have joy & pleasure in short terms & cannot get any knowledge. To enjoy them the price is also great. In the west people are saying – a slogan, “Life is too short; let's enjoy yourself.” Maybe consumerism comes to existence from this western philosophy.

Extreme economic views & doctrines made the present day world unsustainable in many different ways, morally, socially & environmentally. For money & sensual pleasures, human beings can do everything. The price for all these short or momentary joy & pleasure create a lot of human problems.

Nowadays we are talking about quantity & not quality, even including humans. Therefore there are more rubbish, pollutions & immoral human beings. So hedonism is one of the extremes which relates to pleasant feeling & leads to craving (tanhā) & the source of dukkha. It is the hindrance for higher or spiritual knowledge. It has 5 faults;

hino – which is low;
gammo – vulgar or behavior of common people;
pothujjaniko – the way of worldlings or popularism, people are like slaves for their mind;
anariyo – ignoble or cannot becomes noble person;
anattha – sañhito – unbeneficial or nothing to do with knowledge or Dhamma knowledge.

Why the Buddha took sensual pleasures as lowly? Because animals are also enjoying & looking for it. Even we can see some human beings not better than animals & even can be worse. E.g., some of the indigenous people get money support from government to become lazy, just eating, drinking (alcoholism), sleeping & only for sensual pleasures. Even animals have to search for foods.

  1. The pursuit of self-mortification

The Buddha gave three faults for it; dukkho – which is painful; ignoble; and unbeneficial. This self-mortification are still practicing in India. Some Christians also have their self-mortification practices. What about some common people of nowadays? Some people are not for spiritual purposes, but the connection with sensual pleasure, such as fame & gain.

For examples; sky diving, scaling tall and high buildings, climbing off a snowy mountain, etc. and the results are death, severe injuries, amputations of the bodily parts, etc. If we make a record of human foolishness will never end. Therefore the Buddha said that worldlings were crazy.

cited from (posted on 2019-11-22)

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