Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Path to Enlightenment is Gradual

Ven. Nyantiloka (Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines)

One's mind becomes pliable and tractable through meditation. It also does so through listening to a progressive discourse (on giving, virtue, the heavens, Dharma, and Abhidharma) leading to the arousal of spiritual/religious feeling, confidence (faith), yearning to attain liberation, and finally insight. The German scholar-monk, Ven. Nyanatiloka, explains:

"PROGRESS OF A DISCIPLE: Gradual development of the Noble Eightfold Path. In many sutras an identical passage occurs that outlines the gradual course of development in the progress of the disciple. There it is shown how this development takes place gradually and in conformity with laws, from the very first hearing of the doctrine [Dharma], and from germinating faith and dim comprehension, up to the final realization of deliverance [nirvana].

"After hearing the [Dharma], one is filled with confidence, and one thinks: 'Full of hindrances is household life, a refuse heap. But the wandering life (of a recluse) is like the open air. Not easy is it, when one lives at home, to fulfill in all points the rules of the holy or supreme life [brahmacarya].

"How if now I were to cut off hair and put on the saffron robe, and go forth from home to the left-home life?' And after a short time, having given up one's possessions great or few, having forsaken a circle of relations, small or large, one cuts off hair, puts on the saffron robe, and goes forth from home to the wandering life.

"Having thus left the world, one fulfills the rules of recluses:

  1. One avoids the killing of living beings and abstains from it. Without stick or sword, conscientious, full of sympathy, one is desirous of the welfare of all living beings.
  2. One avoids stealing...
  3. avoids unchastity...
  4. avoids lying...
  5. slander...
  6. harsh speech...
  7. idle talk...
  8. One abstains from destroying seeds and plants;
  9. eats only at one time of the day;
  10. keeps aloof from dance, song, music, and shows;
  11. rejects adornments, perfumes, ointments, as well as any other kind of vain accessory and embellishment;
  12. does not use high and luxurious beds;
  13. does not accept gold and silver;
  14. keeps aloof from buying and selling things;
  15. is content with robe for protection and alms-bowl for food;
  16. provided with these two things wherever one may go just like a winged bird in flying carries along its two wings.

"By fulfilling the noble domain of virtue (sila) one feels in one's heart an irreproachable happiness."

In what follows thereafter it is shown how the disciple watches over the five senses as well as the mind. And by this noble restraint of the senses (indriya-samvara) feels at heart an unblemished happiness, how in all actions one is ever mindful and clearly conscious, and how being equipped with this lofty virtue (sila), equipped with this noble restraint of the senses and with mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati-sampajanna), one chooses a secluded .

And freeing the mind from the Five Hindrances, one reaches full concentration (samadhi, [the first four jhanas]); and how one is, thereafter, by developing insight (vipassana) with regard to the impermanency (anicca), misery (dukkha), and impersonality (anatta) of all phenomena of existence, one finally realizes deliverance from all cankers and defilements. And thus this assurance arises: "For ever am I liberated. This is the last time I am born. No new existence awaits me."

(References: Cf. DN 1, 2f; MN 27. 38. 51. 60. 76.; AN IV.198; X.99; Pug. 239, etc.).

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