Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Seven Stages of Purification (to Enlightenment)

Ven. Nyanatiloka Thera (A Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, palikanon.com); Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Crystal Quintero, CC Liu (editors), Wisdom Quarterly
Imagine freedom from religion. That would be good (ffrf.org)! But would we know the Path?

Yes! Then we can do whatever we want...until that gets old. Then what? Haven't we been doing whatever we want -- out of fear, ignorance, craving, delusion, aversion, resentment, and so on? We need a Path that leads to real freedom, to final liberation from all suffering!
Path to Deliverance (BPS)
The "seven stages of purification" form the scaffolding of Upatissa's famous The Path of Freedom (Vimutti-magga), preserved only in Chinese, as well as that of Buddhaghosa's monumental Buddhist meditation manual, The Path of Purification (Visuddhi-magga), based on the former work.
  • [Scholars suggest they belong to the same author, the first being a preliminary attempt to lay out the Path (magga) and the latter a full fledged effort; or it may be that Buddhaghosa used the first as an outline and filled it in with the instructions of many enlightened elders and earlier now lost texts.] 
The Path of Purification
The only place in the Buddhist canon where these seven kinds of purification are mentioned is Middle Length Discourses Sutra 24, "The Simile of the Stage-coach" (see The Buddha's Path to Deliverance, Section 64), where their purpose and goal are illustrated.

The Path of Freedom
There it is said that the real and ultimate goal does not consist in purification of morality, nor of mind, nor of view, and so on, but in total deliverance and the extinction of all suffering. Now, just as one mounts the first coach and travels to the second coach, then mounts the second coach and travels with it to the third coach, and so on, in exactly the same way the goal of
(I) purification (visuddhi) of virtue (sila) is
(II) purification of mind (citta); its goal is:
(III) purification of view (ditthi); its goal:
(IV) purification by overcoming doubt (kankhāvitarana); its goal:
(V) purification by [directly] knowing and seeing what is path and not-path (maggāmagga-ñānadassana); its goal:
(VI) the purification by knowing and seeing the path-progress (patipadā-ñānadassana); its goal:
(VII) the purification by knowing and seeing (ñānadassana); the goal of this purification is deliverance freed of all clinging.
More than anything I want to be free!
(I) "Purification of virtue consists of the fourfold purity of morality, namely: restraint with regard to the Disciplinary Code (Patimokkha, "The Path to Liberation" or moksha), sense-restraint, purity of livelihood, morality with regard to the Four Requisites" (The Path of Purification, Vis.M. XVIII).

On these four terms, see sīla. In the case of a layperson, it entails the observance of whatever guidelines (the Five Precepts or more) one has taken upon oneself.
(II) "'Purification of mind' is a name for the Eight Attainments (the four material and four immaterial meditative absorptions, jhāna), as well as neighborhood-concentration (upacāra-samādhi)."
(III) "By purification of view is meant the understanding, according to reality, of mind and materiality (nāmarūpa)... which is founded on wisdom (nondelusion) as its base, and which in manifold ways determines mind and matter after overcoming clinging to views of self (personality-belief, attā, self, ego)." [The accomplishment of this stage of purification results in stream entry, the first stage of enlightenment, when success becomes certain within seven lives.]

(IV) "By purification by overcoming doubt is meant the understanding which, by grasping the conditions of this mind and materiality, has escaped from all doubt with regard to the three times (past, present, and future)." (Ibid. XIX)
(V) "By purification by knowledge and vision of what is path and not-path is meant that understanding which knows the right path from the wrong path: 'This is the right path, that the wrong path.' " (Ibid. XX)
In order to attain this fifth stage of purification, one first develops methodical insight (naya-vipassanā) through contemplation of the Five Aggregates of Clinging (khandha). For whosoever does not yet possess a perfectly developed insight, to that person such phenomena as effulgence of light, and so on (see below), arising during insight, may become impediments in the three kinds of full understanding here considered (see pariññā).
What is the Path to Freedom, the Path of Purification of the Buddhist shramana?
Shakyamuni Buddha, Gandhara art
"As soon as the manifold ways and characteristics of the Four Noble Truths and the Dependent Origination have become clear to the meditating disciple, one says to oneself:

'Thus do these things never before arisen arise, and having arisen they disappear again. Thus do the formations of existence ever and again arise as something quite new. But not only are they something new, they are moreover also of limited duration, like a dew drop at sunrise, like a bubble, like a line drawn with a stick in water, like a mustard seed placed on the point of an arrow, or like a flash of lightning. Also as something unsubstantial and empty do they appear, as jugglery, as a mirage... Merely something subject to vanishing arises, and having arisen disappears again.' "

During such insight practice, however, may arise the Ten Imperfections (or Defilements) of Insight (vipassanūpakkilesa):
  1. effulgence of light (obhāsa),
  2. knowledge (ñāna), 
  3. rapture (bliss, pīti), 
  4. tranquility (passaddhi),
  5. happiness (sukha),
  6. determination (adhimokkha), 
  7. energy (paggaha),
  8. awareness (upatthāna), 
  9. delight (nikanti). 
  10. See The Path of Purification (Vis.M. XX, 105f., Appendix).
NOTE: With the exception of the last one, "delight," these are not imperfections or defilements in and of themselves, but may become a basis for them through the arising of pride or delight or by a wrong conclusion that one of the noble paths has been attained.

However, one who is watchful and experienced in insight practice (vipassana meditation) will know that these states of mind do not indicate attainment of the true Path, but are only byproducts or concomitants of insight meditation.
"Thus far the meditating disciple has determined three of the Four Noble Truths, namely while determining the corporeal (material) and mental phenomena one has, through purification of view, determined the 'truth of suffering.' While grasping the conditions one has, through purification by overcoming doubt, determined the [first noble] 'truth of the origin of suffering.' While determining the right path, one has, through purification by knowing and seeing what is path and not-path, determined the [fourth noble] 'truth of the Path' (leading to the extinction of suffering)."
(VI) Purification by knowing and seeing (knowledge and vision) of the path-progress is the insight perfected in eight kinds of knowledge, together with the ninth knowledge, the 'knowledge adapting itself to truth.'
By the eight kinds of knowledge are here meant the following, which are freed from defilements, follow the right process, and are considered as insight, namely:
1. knowledge (ñāna) consisting of the contemplation of [the incessant] rise and fall [of phenomena] (udayabbayānupassanā-ñāna),
2. in contemplation of dissolution (bhangānupassanā-ñāna),
3. in awareness of the dreadful (bhayatūpatthānā-ñāna),
4. in contemplation of the miserable (ādīnavānupassanā-ñāna),
5. in contemplation of aversion (nibbidānupassanā-ñāna),
6. in the desire for liberation (muccitu-kamyatā-ñāna),
7. in reflecting contemplation (patisankhānupassanā-ñāna),
8. in equanimity regarding all formations of existence (sankhārupekkhā-ñāna) -- which is followed by
9. in adaptation to truth (saccānulomika-ñāna).
The Buddha in Gandhara art, the earliest human representations (buddhaskulptur.de).
(1) consists of the meditative observation of the Three Characteristics of All Existence (impermanent, unsatisfactory, impersonal) in one's own bodily and mental processes. As long as the mind is still disturbed by the Then Imperfections (see V), the Three Characteristics will not become fully clear in their true nature. Only when the mind is free from these imperfections can the universal characteristics be observed clearly.

(2) When through such repeated practice, knowledge and mindfulness have grown keen and the bodily and mental formations become apparent quickly, at that stage the phase of dissolution of these formations will become prominent [salient].
"Consciousness with (for example) materiality as its object arises and dissolves. Having reflected on that object, one contemplates the dissolution of (reflecting) consciousness" (The Path of Discrimination, the Patisambhidā-magga, Pts.M. I, 57, quoted in The Path of Purification, Vis.M. XXI, 11).
The eight blessings of this knowledge are:
  1. abandoning the belief in eternal existence (bhava-ditthi),
  2. giving up attachment to continued becoming,
  3. constant right application (of mind to meditative endeavor),
  4. a purified livelihood,
  5. overcoming of anxiety,
  6. absence of fear,
  7. acquisition of forbearance and gentleness,
  8. conquest of discontent and sensual delight (Path of Purification, Vis.M. XXI, 28).
(3) Knowledge consisting in awareness of the dreadful is seeing the terror inherent in the conditions as well as the continuity of rebirth [in whatever plane existence].

For whosoever considers the formations as impermanent, to that person the conditions of becoming (i.e., the karma-formations ever producing rebirth for countless lives beyond imagining with their concomitant unsatisfactoriness and suffering) appear as dreadful and terrifying, as ceaselessly hurtling towards death.

Whosoever considers the formations as miserable, to that person the continuity of rebirth appears as dreadful, as a calamity, as terrifying, as something oppressive.

Whosoever considers the formations as impersonal, to that person the karma formations, as well as the continuity of rebirth, appear as dreadful, as an empty village, as a mirage, and so on [according to an extended analogy given in another teaching by the Buddha].
(4) Contemplation of the miserable (or the inherent danger) is another aspect of the awareness of the dreadful: "The origin (birth) is dreadful... continuance of rebirth is dreadful... arising is suffering [unsatisfactory, ultimately disappointing, miserable],' such understanding in the awareness of the dreadful is the knowledge of misery. 'Non-arising [in the first place] is bliss,' this is knowledge of the peaceful state (The Path of Discrimination, Pts.M. I, 59); that is, the no-more-arising is safety, is happiness, is nirvana.
(5) Contemplation of aversion means aversion for [disillusionment with] all formations as dreadful; therefore, its name 'awareness of the dreadful' or 'awareness of terror' has come into use.

Because it has made known the misery [unsatisfactoriness, ultimate disappointment] of all of these formations, therefore it has received the name of 'contemplation of the miserable.' 
Because it has arisen through aversion for those formations, therefore it is known as 'contemplation of aversion.' 
(6) Knowledge consisting in the desire for deliverance means the desire for freedom and escape from all formations of and leading to further rebirth. For a sense of aversion for all [conditioned] formations, becoming weary of them, finding no more delight in them, the mind does not cling to a single one of these formations.
  • [NOTE: Nirvana alone is the "unconditioned element" not subject to arising, falling, disappointment, personality-view, suffering, greed, hatred, or delusion. It is complete and final liberation.] 
(7) Reflecting contemplation is the repeated meditative discernment of the formations of rebirth, [directly knowing and seeing and] attributing to them the Three [Universal] Characteristics of Existence with the desire to find deliverance from all forms of rebirth.
(8) Equanimity regarding all formations: "When the meditator (through reflecting contemplation) has discerned the formations by applying the [repeated contemplation of the universal facts of the] Three Characteristics to them and sees them as [ultimately] void (empty, without an actor, doer, or experiencer], one abandons both dread and delight and becomes unbiased and equanimous with regard to ALL formations: One neither takes them as I nor as 'mine'; one is like a person who has divorced a spouse" (The Path of Purification, Vis.M. XXI, 61).

Intellectual freedom is the first to go. And when we lose it, we lose the way to wisdom.
Now, while continuing to contemplate the Three Marks or Characteristics of Existence and perceiving the tranquility of nirvana as the highest peace, this equanimity-knowledge becomes the triple gateway to liberation. As it is said (The Path of Discrimination, Pts.M. II, p. 48):
"Three gateways to liberation (vimokkha-mukha, see vimokkha I) lead to escape from the world, namely:
  1. that the mind is contemplating all formations as limited and is rushing forward to the unconditioned element (animitta-dhātu [synonymous with nirvana]);
  2. that the mind is stirred with regard to all formations of rebirth and is rushing forward to the desireless [quenched, cravingless] element (appanihita-dhātu);
  3. that the mind sees all things as something foreign and is rushing forward to the void element [that sees all conditioned-things as empty of self, shunyata] (or suññatā-dhātu)."
Spiritual or not, take nourishment.
At this stage, and through this triple gateway, the diversification of Path attainment takes place, according to the Seven Kinds of Noble Persons (ariya-puggala); on this see The Path of Purification, Vis.M. XXI, 74ff.

The sixth, seventh, and eighth knowledge, according to The Path of Purification (Vis.M. XXI), form really only one single knowledge in its first, middle and final stages of development. This knowledge is also known as the 'insight leading to path ascent' (vutthāna-gāminī-vipassanā).
(9) Adaptation to truth (or conformity with the Truth) is called that knowledge which, while contemplating the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and impersonal characteristics of ALL conditioned phenomena, adapts itself to the preceding eight kinds of insight-knowledge, as well as to the immediately following supermundane Path and to the 37 Requisites of Enlightenment (bodhipakkhiya-dhamma). It is identical with adaptation-knowledge (anulomañāna).
"Whosoever has cultivated, developed, and frequently practiced 'equanimity regarding all formations' in that person arises very strong verifiable-confidence (faith) known as determination (adhimokkha-saddhā) and one's energy is better exerted, one's mindfulness better established, one's mind better concentrated, and a still stronger 'equanimity regarding the formations' arises. 'Now the Path will reveal itself', thus thinking, the meditator contemplates -- with one's equanimity-knowledge -- all formations as impermanent, unsatisfactory, impersonal and thereafter that knowledge sinks into the subconscious stream of existence (bhavanga-sotā).
Immediately afterwards there arises advertence [turning toward] at the mind-door (viññāna-kicca). And just like equanimity-knowledge, the adaptation-knowledge, too, takes as its object the formations, regarding them as something impermanent, miserable [disappointing, inherently incapable of ever satisfying], and impersonal.

Thereupon, while continuing the uninterrupted continuity of consciousness (citta-santati), there arises the first impulsion or impulsive moment (javana), called 'preparation,' taking the same formations as object.

Immediately thereafter, with the same formations as object, there arises the second impulsion known as 'access' (upacāra). And again immediately after that, there arises the impulsion called 'adaptation' (anuloma)."
(VII) Purification by knowing and seeing [by direct knowledge and vision] is the knowledge associated with any of the four kinds of supermundane path-consciousness. (See the various types of Noble Persons or  ariya-puggala).
"Immediately upon this adaptation-knowledge there arises the 'maturity-knowledge' (gotrabhū-ñāna) taking as object the Unconditioned Element, the standstill of rebirth, the absence of becoming, cessation, nirvana, while at the same time transcending the rank,
  • [Gotta = gotra: the "lineage" of ordinary uninstructed worldlings who are all subject to constant rebirth and misery and the danger of greater suffering]
The Path of Purification
the designation, and the plane[s] of ordinary uninstructed worldlings (puthujjana) and entering the rank, the designation, and the status of the Noble Ones (ariya), being the first turning towards nirvana as object, the first thinking of it, the first concentration on it, and the condition for the Path...forming the culmination of insight with no falling back and no longer being subject to rebirth.
''As the immediate continuation following upon that maturity knowledge (gotrabhū-ñāna), there arises the first Path-consciousness (stream entry) forever destroying the first three of the Ten Fetters of Existence (samyojana), and forever overcoming rebirth in any kind of existence lower than the human plane.

Now I know and see directly depending on no one!
"Immediately after this Path-knowledge, there arise, as its result, two or three Path-produced states of consciousness, the fruition consciousness (phala-citta).

"Immediately after the sinking of this consciousness into the subconscious stream (bhavanga-sotā, q.v.) of existence, the retrospective knowledge (paccavekkhana-ñāna) arises, having the Path-consciousness as its object" (The Path of Purification, Vis.M. XXI). For the three higher paths, see ariya-puggala, q.v.
Each of the four kinds of Path-consciousness performs at one and the same time four functions, namely:
  1. the function of full understanding of unsatisfactoriness (disappointment, misery, suffering, danger),
  2. the function of overcoming the origin of suffering,
  3. the function of realizing (sacchikiriyā) the extinction of suffering,
  4. the function of developing (literally, "bringing into being," cultivating, making be, meditating, bhāvanā) the supermundane Noble Eightfold Path (magga).

No comments: