Friday, October 5, 2018

Wise Attention leads to Enlightenment

Ven. Xin-xing (; Dhr. Seven, Sayalay Aloka (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

Wise reflection is the way.
Enlightenment is attained by means of the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha says there are four factors that can help us reach the Noble Eightfold Path:
  1. associating with superior persons;
  2. hearing the true Dharma;
  3. wise attention; and 
  4. practice in accordance with the Dharma.
Among these four factors wise attention plays a very important role. Wise attention helps us to overcome the Five Hindrances and develop the Seven Factors of Enlightenment.

It is by wise attention that one transcends the level of an ordinary person and reaches the level of a "noble one," an enlightened person [at any of the stages of a instructed noble disciple].
But what exactly is meant by wise attention? The Pali expression translated as "wise attention" is yoniso manasikara.
Yoniso manasikara applies the method of Dependent Origination in unique ways to the understanding of human existence. It is very difficult to capture this nuance in any English translation of the expression.

In order to understand what yoniso manasikara means, let us first see how the Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary treats the term.

According to the PTS Dictionary, yoni means "origin," and yoniso, an ablative form of this word, means "down to its origin or foundation."

Manasikara means "attention, pondering, fixed thought." Thus, yoniso manasikara means "fixing one's attention with a purpose or thoroughly." It is proper attention with thorough method in one's thought.
Wise Attention in Removing the "Taints"
Physical taints are easier to see than mental ones.
Now I would like to explain the Buddha's teaching on wise attention as given in the Sabbasava Sutra, "The Discourse on All the Taints" (MN 2).

The theme of “The Discourse on All the Taints" is the application of wise attention to the task of eradicating the "taints" (asava), the fundamental defilements that keep us bound to samsara, the "Round of Rebirth and Death."

It is by unwise attention that the unarisen taints arise and arisen taints increase, and thus unwise attention keeps us in bondage to samsara. On the other hand, it is by wise attention that unarisen taints do not arise and arisen taints are destroyed.
In the sutra the Buddha explains how an "untaught ordinary person" attends unwisely, whereas a well-taught noble disciple attends wisely.

The untaught ordinary person does not know what is fit for attention and what is unfit for attention. More

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