Sunday, June 24, 2018

Enlightenment by Ear (sota-panna)

Bhikkhu Bodhi (ATS) Wheel #367 (BPS), Dhr. Seven, C. Quintero (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

When the Buddha taught, he did not get right to the point. First he prepared his audience with a "gradual instruction" (ānupubbī-kathā). A key recurring topic was:
The practice of giving, which is universally recognized as one of the most basic human virtues, a quality that testifies to the depth of one's humanity and one's capacity for self-transcendence.

In the teachings of the Buddha, the practice of giving claims a place of special prominence, one which singles it out as being in a sense the foundation and seed of spiritual development, that of being able to let go.

In the Pali (the exclusively-Buddhist language) discourses, we read time and again that "talk on giving" was invariably the first topic the Buddha discussed in his "gradual instruction" of the Dharma.

Whenever the Buddha delivered a discourse to an audience of people who did not yet regard him as their teacher, he would start by emphasizing the value of giving, of letting go, of caring for others and sharing with them for the good of all.

Only after his audience had come to appreciate this virtue would he introduce other aspects of the teaching, such as virtue in general, the law of karma (that what we think, say, and/or do subsequently bears fruit (and mental resultants), and the benefits in renunciation (internally letting go and gaining a greater perspective on the things that trap us and hold us in bonds).

P.S. The secret to enlightenment is satipatthana to realize the khandhas are anatta.
And only after all of these principles had made their impact on the hearts/minds of his listeners would he expound to them that unique discovery of the awakened ones, the Four Noble Truths and the unheard of anatta principle that all things are, in an ultimate sense, impersonal although we regard them as "I, me, and mine."
  • The eye of wisdom arose = sotapannaship.
    Hearing the Dharma after their hearts/minds had been duly prepared, listeners often entered or won the stream [entered by ear, entered by hearing the truth], that is, realized the first stage of enlightenment.
Strictly speaking, giving does not appear on its own among the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, nor does it enter among the other "37 Requisites of Enlightenment."

Most probably it has been excluded from these groupings because the practice of giving does not by its own nature conduce directly and immediately to the arising of insight and the realization of the Four Noble Truths and nirvana (moksha, final liberation, complete freedom).

Giving (dana), letting go, relinquishing functions in the Buddhist discipline in a different capacity.

It does not come at the apex of the path, as a factor constituent of the process of enlightenment (awakening), but rather it serves as a basis and preparation that underlies and quietly supports the entire endeavor to free the mind from the defilements.
Nevertheless, though giving is not counted directly among the factors of the path, its contribution to progress along the road to liberation should be recognized. The prominence of this contribution is underscored by the place the Buddha assigns to giving in various sets of practices. 

In addition to appearing as the first topic in the graduated exposition of the Dharma, the practice of giving also figures as:
  • the first of the three bases of meritorious deeds
  • the first of the four ways of benefiting others*
  • the first of the ten "perfections" or paramis.
  • *The four "ways of showing favor" are generosity, kind speech, beneficial actions, and unbiased impartiality (A.IV.32; A.VIII.24).
The perfections are the sublime virtues cultivated by all aspirants to enlightenment. These ten are cultivated to the most exalted degree by those who follow the way of the Bodhisattva aiming at supreme buddhahood. More

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