RE: [dsg] The Three Trainings (1)
- Impermanence, suffering and non-self are, for the Buddha, the three
universal characteristics of phenomena. The three are inextricably
interwoven, and insight into one leads naturally to the others.
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2012 23:38:05 -0700
Subject: [dsg] The Three Trainings (1)
The Three Trainings: the Training in the Higher Virtue (adhisiila-sikkhaa), the Training in the Higher Mind (adhicitta-sikkhaa), and the Training in the Higher Wisdom (adhipa~n~naa-sikkhaa) are described briefly by Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi in his Introduction to An Anthology of Suttas from the A"nguttara Nikaaya.
I will present an excerpt from that Introduction.
The Monastic Training
The life of a monk or a nun is one dedicated to the quest for Nibbaana. The proper motive for "going forth" into homelessness is "to put an end to suffering", the suffering of the beginningless round of rebirths. To make this goal feasible the Buddha has prescribed a remarkably precise and rigorous discipline consisting of three stages of training: the training in the higher virtue, the higher mind and the higher wisdom. It will be noted that the three trainings correspond to the threefold division of the Noble Eightfold Path into virtue, concentration and wisdom. The correspondence is not coincidental: while in the suttas the three trainings are taught specifically to monks, they simply define in monastic terms the same universal path open to all the Buddha's followers, the sole way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering.
Each of the stages within the threefold training rests on its predecessor as its support and in turn supports its successor. But more basic than any single stage of the threefold training is a quality called diligence (appamaada), which pervades the Buddhist discipline from start to finish. Diligence might be explained as an unremitting devotion to the good based on a clear perception of the dangers in the defilements and in the round of rebirths. To practice diligence is to maintain constant awareness of one's own thoughts and motives, and to be energetic in eliminating those that are detrimental and in fostering the growth of those that are beneficial. The Buddha praises diligence as the best of all wholesome states, for it is the quality responsible for bringing all the other factors of training to completion.
(1) The Training in the Higher Virtue (adhisiila-sikkhaa). The path begins with the training in moral virtue, which for monks and nuns means principally compliance with the Paatimokkha, the code of monastic rules. These rules are intended to foster such inner qualities as purity, harmlessness, simplicity and detachment. Besides observing the formal rules, the monk or nun should also be content with the simplest material requisites, exercise restraint of the senses, eat and sleep in moderation, avoid frivolous chatter, bear difficulties with patience, and live in harmony with his or her fellows in the Order.
(2) The Training in the Higher Mind (adhicitta-sikkhaa). The focus of the Buddhist path is not so much on outward conduct as on the mind, for the Buddha teaches that the mind is the source of all good and evil. When the mind is undeveloped and untrained it gives rise to suffering and bondage, when it is developed and trained it becomes the most versatile instrument of liberation. The training in the higher mind aims at cultivating the faculty of concentration (samaadhi), i.e. the ability to keep the mind focused one-pointedly on an object without wavering or distraction. The system of meditation prescribed for cultivating concentration is called samatha-bhaavanaa, the development of tranquility. To fulfil this training the meditator must first select a suitable object of meditation (or be assigned one by a teacher). The texts enumerate some forty objects of tranquility meditation. Among these, mindfulness of breathing and the kasi.na devices (discs
representing the four elements or the primary colours); are the most effective for developing the deepest state of concentration. Other objects recommended are the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha), which inspire faith and confidence; the contemplation of the foulness of the body, useful for overcoming sensual lust; mindfulness of death, which burns up attachment to life and inspires a sense of urgency; and the brahmavihaara or "divine abodes", meditations on universal loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity.
The initial challenge the novice meditator must face in stilling the mind is to dispel the five hindrances (pa~nca-niivara.na): sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. Since these are the principal obstacles to both concentration and insight, the Buddha has explained in detail their dangers, the conditions that nurture them, and the means to counteract them. Through dedicated practice, bolstered by determination, effort and skilful balancing of the faculties the meditator learns to vanquish the hindrances, dispel distracting thoughts and unify the mind. The taming of the mind is compared to the refinement of gold, and like metallurgy requires a delicate combination of skills, particularly the proper application of energy, concentration and onlooking equanimity.
The training in the higher mind culminates in four exalted states called the jhaanas. These are states of deep concentration marked by a radical unification of consciousness and the elimination of all distraction. The four jhaanas unfold in sequence, each subtler one achieved by eliminating the grosser factors in the preceding jhaanas. In the fourth jhaana the predominant qualities of consciousness are purified equanimity and mindfulness. After mastering the fourth jhaana three pathways open up before the meditator. One is to pursue the development of tranquility to a still higher level cultivating the four "formless" attainments, stages of concentration that arise through the progressive abstraction of the object. A second is to develop the psychic powers and superknowledges that become accessible to the clear, concentrated mind. And the third is to advance to the next stage of training, the development of wisdom.
(3) The Training in the Higher Wisdom (adhipa~n~naa-sikkhaa). The function of concentration, in the structure of the Buddhist path, is to provide a foundation for wisdom (pa~n~naa). Wisdom is the primary tool of liberation, the direct antidote to the ignorance at the bottom of the causal process that originates suffering. The jhaanas and the formless concentrations can support the development of wisdom by providing a base of calm and clarity for the meditator to see things as they really are, but on their own they are incapable of cutting off the defilements at the root. In fact, if they are clung to and pursued for their own sake, they only serve as additional fuel for continuing the round of rebirths, not as a means for stopping it. At the deepest level the fetters are all held in place by ignorance, and thus what is required to cut them off is the quality directly opposed to ignorance, namely, wisdom.
The systematic training designed by the Buddha to nourish the growth of wisdom is called vipassanaa-bhaavanaa, the development of insight. While the texts recognize the possibility of attaining insight first and then developing tranquility afterwards, the classical paradigm of the path treats tranquility as the foundation for insight. Thus a meditator intent on following the path to its consummation first masters the practice of concentration to a degree sufficient to make the mind calm and unified. Then, with a still, luminous mind, he or she attends mindfully to the field of immediate experience, beginning with the body. As mindfulness becomes sharper and clearer the meditator learns to distinguish the five aggregates: matter or physical form (ruupa); feeling (vedanaa), the affective tone of experience, either pleasant, painful or neutral; perception (sa~n~naa), the factor responsible for noting, distinguishing and recognition; volitional formations
(sa"nkhaara), the intentional aspect of mental activity; and consciousness (vi~n~naa.na), the basic awareness operating through the senses. The meditator attends to these five aggregates as they arise and pass away, thereby uncovering the mark of impermanence (anicca). The insight into impermanence brings the realization that the aggregates, being unstable and constantly disintegrating, are really concealed forms of suffering (dukkha). And whatever is impermanent and suffering cannot be identified as a truly existent self. Thus when rightly viewed the five aggregates, which we cherish as "I" and "mine", are seen as "not mine, not I, not my self" (anattaa).
Impermanence, suffering and non-self are, for the Buddha, the three universal characteristics of phenomena. The three are inextricably interwoven, and insight into one leads naturally to the others. To contemplate them deeply is the essence of insight meditation, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are. As the knowledge born of insight penetrates to deeper and deeper levels, it engenders a profound revulsion towards conditioned existence (nibbidaa). The mind turns away from all the formations (s"ankhaara) comprised within the five aggregates, which are seen as "a disease, a boil, a dart". Instead, it focuses upon the deathless element, Nibbaana, perceived as the only true security and peace. This revulsion blossoms in dispassion (viraaga), the fading away of lust and craving, and dispassion in turn culminates in liberation (vimutti), the mind's release from all fetters.
Han: I will present AN 3.87. Pa.thama-sikkhaa Sutta in my next post.