Vipassana Bhumi 5
The Four Noble Truths (Ariya Sacca)
After attending the retreat for the past few days, some of you may have gained mindfulness, concentration, and some wisdom. This is not by accident, but it can be the result of previous merit that has allowed us to be born as human beings. But better than that, we also have a chance to attend the meditation retreat, where we can learn the way to cultivate our mind. This is the highest merit, so continue to apply maximum effort to your practice.
Among the Four Noble Truths, there is the one that the meditator should know – the one that the meditator should let go, the one that the meditator should reach, and the one that the meditator should cultivate.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF ARIYA SACCA?
“Ari” means enemy, and “Ya” means to go. So Ariya means to go away from the enemies. What are our enemies? They are the defilements! When we realize the ariya sacca, our mind will be freed from these defilements. Ariya can also mean wonderful, or being far away. Sacca means the truth.
Ariya sacca is the truths that free our mind from defilements, or the truths that belong to the enlightened one. Laypeople will not have a clear understanding of the ariya sacca – it is only an enlightened one who will. In the other words, when the layperson understands the ariya sacca clearly, he will be transformed into an enlightened person( ariya puggala).
The Buddha was the first one to realize the Ariya sacca. What did he realize when he became enlightened? He realized the Ariya sacca. All the enlightened ones from the stream enterer( Sota panna) and onward have also realized the Ariya sacca.
The meaning of Ariya sacca is the truth that cannot be changed into any other thing. It maintains the same characteristics. It is different from the conventional truth( sammutti or panyatti) that comes from being chosen or from a certain agreement. Some examples of the conventional truth are the words that we use to label, such as man, woman, dog, house, tree, etc. In reality, a tree is only a form, and human or animal are also forms. So there is no certainty in the conventional truth – it depends on how we want to name them. The ultimate truth is Ariya sacca. The dhamma condition is the paramattha dhamma that does not change.
Dukkha is the real suffering .
Samudaya is the real cause of suffering.
Nirodha is the real ending of suffering.
Magga are the real paths to end suffering.
Each condition also maintains its’ own characteristic. These are some examples:
Fire maintains the heat, eyes only perceive colors, ears only perceive sounds, hearing only happens when the sound contacts the ear, etc. All the rupa ( form) and nama( mind) will maintain their own characteristic.
Ariya sacca is the truth that does not change. They are:
Dukkha sacca( the truth of suffering).
Samudaya sacca ( the truth of the cause of suffering).
Nirodha sacca ( the truth of the end of suffering).
Magga sacca( the truth of the paths to end suffering).
The first Noble truth is Dukkha sacca( the truth of suffering).
Dukkha is a wonderful truth. What makes this truth wonderful? It is because when one contemplates dukkha, wisdom will develop and one will escape from suffering. This is the real truth that does not change.
The dhamma conditions in this group are all the forms( rupa) and all the worldly minds and mental factors(cetasika), except the mind with greed( lobha citta).
The worldly mind is the mind that gets involved in the conventional world. It makes us cling on to the self, thinks of the body and mind as being us, or ours. There are both wholesome and the unwholesome minds that create the kamma. This clinging (upadana) will bind us to the cycle of birth and rebirth, which brings us suffering.
Dukkha needs to be understood, not ignored or destroyed. We are used to getting rid of it. For example when we have pain, we want it to go away, which is not the right practice. Pain is for us to contemplate, to watch without controlling. Some people commit suicide because they are tired of the suffering in the body. That was not the way to end suffering. We need to contemplate suffering so that insight can develop. We cannot cut off the suffering, but we can cut off the cause of it. This will be the only way to end suffering.
WHAT DO WE NEED TO CONTEMPLATE?
We need to contemplate all the rupa( materiality/form) and nama(mentality/mind).
Rupa: We need to contemplate all of the forms: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, color, sound, odor, flavor, and body contact( heat/ cold, soft/ hard, tension/ relaxation), to see that they are unsatisfactory. Every part that forms into the body and every single cell inside the body has the ‘ dukkha characteristic’. It means that they cannot be sustained in the same condition – it will vanish. When the body feels good, that feeling also will change. It will not stay the same, and will vanish. The eyes, the color, the sound, the heat/cold, etc., will disappear after the contact. The truth is that all of the forms have the dukkha characteristic, which means that nothing can remain in the same condition. This is why all of the forms are unsatisfactory.
Nama: Vedana (feeling) also needs to be observed, since it also displays the ‘dukkha characteristic’, which means that it cannot be sustained. One vedana that occurs frequently is pain. It arises, vanishes, and then arises again. If we did not look at it closely, it would appear to be continuous. It may come and go very rapidly in a split second. When watching the pain carefully, we will see that that pain can be very sharp, and then disappears. When the mind does not observe it, it will be gone. When we focus back on it, the pain will return. Or when the mind focuses on another location, the pain also will appear to be gone. The mind can ‘know or perceive’ only one thing at a time. When it perceives the sound, it cannot perceive the pain. So the mind will not know the pain at that moment. If the mind perceives input from other contacts, the same thing will happen. It can switch back and forth very quickly. When observing closely, we will see this pattern of interruption, appearing and disappearing, and changing. We will see that the pain stops momentarily.
During meditation, you need to observe the unpleasant feeling, the pleasant feeling, and all the forms that appear at the present moment. Observe them without having any attachment or any control. We have to learn about suffering in order for the insight to gradually arise, until a “clear understanding” develops, or until we can see the real nature of suffering. This is when we see the characteristic of anicca( impermanence) , the dukkha( unsustainable) and anatta( uncontrollable- nonself).
There are dukkha characteristics in the forms(rupa), in the mind( citta) and in the mental factors( cetasika). All the defilements such as greed, hatred, and delusion, and the mind that sees, hears, touches, and thinks, are not permanent. The wholesome mind also changes. All the mental factors also change but they are harder to watch, since they arise and vanish very quickly.
Initially, you can contemplate on life situations first by considering that birth, aging and sickness are suffering. Sadness, separation from loved ones, and facing something that you don’t like are also suffering. The mind suffers because of the attachment. Contemplate repeatedly, until you feel saddened in the cycle of birth and death in the life. These still involve conventional thinking. You will not understand the dukkha clearly, until you observe the rupa and nama while they are arising and disappearing. The process of seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling, etc., will show us the reality that they are impermanent, that they will change and that they are out of our control.
The second Noble truth is Samudaya Sacca (the truth of the cause of suffering).
This is another wonderful truth, or the truth that belongs to the enlightened one.
The dhamma condition is the lobha cetasika( mental factor of craving and clinging), that is the cause of suffering.
There are 3 kinds of craving:
Craving for sensual pleasure( kama tanha)
Craving for existence( bhava tanha)
Craving for nonexistence( vibhava tanha)
All three kinds of craving have the same mental factor, which is the lobha cetasika. It is the natural process of wanting and getting attached to the conditions. This is the cause of suffering, and it is the cause for us to be born again. It can be compared to the seed, which will sprout whenever there is the suitable combination of water, soil, fertilizer, light, etc. The way to stop it from growing is to cook that seed or to let it burn in the sun.
The craving and clinging in the mind that is still full of defilement will be the reason of the rebirth or another life. Such mind can be compared to a house builder. Life is compared to a house – we were born with this body that is the result of craving. The Buddha contemplated this issue after his enlightenment and compared the craving to the house builder. After discovering the truth, his house was destroyed and was not built again.
Keeping the five precepts allows one to be born as human being, but we still carry the craving with us. One who was born as a deva from the good merit performed in the past life also has craving. Sometimes we have habits driven by craving where we want to gain wealth, good status, or good appearance from our good deed. So when we make dana offerings or keep the precepts, we have these wanting to have or wanting to be hidden in the back our mind.
When we face unpleasant feelings, we want them to disappear. During meditation, we want the mind to be calm and peaceful. We are used to not being this and that, or not having this and that. Wanting to reach nibbana can be vibhava tanha, because the self wants us not to exist or not to endure suffering. That self also wants to do good things, which is bhava tanha. The other cravings are wanting to see nice things, hear sweet sounds, taste delicious foods and have a nice feeling of touch. All of these are kama tanha.
The underlying factor that creates new birth and new life is avijja( ignorance). It covers up the truth about this body and mind. So craving is the cause of suffering. When we meditate, the mind will crave peacefulness – it does not want the busy mind or the having of any pain, etc. – we love to be in control. If things are not going the way we want, anger will arise, followed by boredom, and finally we will stop meditating altogether.
Watch the mind carefully and notice any wanting or craving that may arise. People may question if there is no wanting, will we meditate? We can practice without wanting. We do not need to want to be mindful. Continuous awareness of the body and mind can be done without wanting. During the practice, thoughts will interrupt. Just be aware of it, without getting upset. If you want it to not appear, that will be vibhava tanha again. When you know that there is a ‘ wanting’, learn to be neutral and letting go will follow. Remember that tanha is the cause of suffering.
The third Noble truth is Nirodha Sacca( the truth of the end of suffering).
The dhamma condition is Nibbana, which is the end of suffering. Peace is the character of nibbana. It is peaceful from the disappearance of defilement, peaceful from the nonattachment to the forms and mentality. Peace from letting go of the Five Khandas is Parinibbana. If the enlightened one eradicates all the defilements, but is still alive, that nibbana is called sa-upadisesa nibbana. He still has the suffering of the body, such as having the sensations of cold, hot, hunger, thirst, etc., but the mind is free from any unsatisfactoriness. The mind will be peaceful – completely cool, because there is no more fire from greed, hatred, or delusion. The mind cannot be stirred up anymore. The other three groups of enlightened persons may still have an occasional recurring of some residual defilements. When the fully enlightened person passes away, he will reach the parinibbana state which is free from the materiality and mentality (anupadisesa nibbana). What is left in the fully enlightened person is the functioning mind, (kiriya citta) which is free from defilement and kamma. There is no continuation and no rebirth. The suffering is ended completely.
The fourth Noble truth is Magga sacca (the truth of the paths that lead to the end of suffering).
This is the Eight Noble Paths. We start from knowing the suffering, then eliminate the cause of suffering. The realization of the end of suffering occurs when the eight noble paths are fully perfected. That is when the deeper clinging is cut off.
The Noble Eightfold paths that need to be improved to perfection are:
1. Right View. The mental factor ( cetasika) is the insight that sees things as they are. It starts from observing the rupa and nama to arise and disappear. The mind knows from repeated observation until it clearly sees the impermanence, suffering, and nonself.
2. Right Intention. The intention of renunciation, free from craving, aversion and cruelty. The mental factor is vitakka cetasika, which is the applied thought. The practice is bringing mindfulness and clear comprehension to observe the rupa and nama that are arising and disappearing.
3. Right Speech. It is in the morality group. The key is having the intention to avoid using wrong speech. These are abstaining from false speech, malicious speech, harsh speech, and useless speech. Keeping noble silence is also part of the right speech.
4. Right Action. This includes abstaining from taking life, from stealing and from sensual misconduct.
5. Right Livelihood. This is giving up the wrong livelihood.
6. Right Effort. Initially you may need to make the effort, and arouse the energy to do sitting or walking meditation. After doing it more, the effort will be stronger and can overcome the laziness. After regular practice, the effort will be more spontaneous and the energy will increase.
We also have to put effort into abandoning the unwholesome states of mind that have already arisen and prevent the new ones from arising. On the other hand, we need to maintain and perfect wholesome states of mind that have already arisen. For example, when we are more mindful we will avoid evil acts, or when we are mindful of the anger it will decrease or disappear. When more effort develops, the mindfulness, concentration and wisdom will follow. This is the result of the right effort.
7. Right Mindfulness. Being mindful on the Four Foundations: body, feeling, mind, and phenomena. Ultimately being aware of the rupa (form ) and nama( mentality), which are the ultimate truth that appear in the present moment. Mindfulness has to work alongside morality and wisdom, and not by itself. Initially you have to understand the difference between conventional truth( panyatti) and the ultimate truth( paramattha), so that you can be mindful on the conditions that display the three characteristics. Vipassana (insight) will develop from seeing that rupa and nama are two separate conditions, they are the cause and effect for each other to arise, they will appear and disappear, etc. Mindfulness is the leader, after continually observing it over and over, wisdom will arise.
8. Right Concentration. There are several levels of concentration. Momentary concentration is sufficient for observing the body and mind condition, and it can lead to deeper concentration.
While attending the meditation retreat you live a clean and pure life, and the Noble Eightfold Paths are completely followed.
The morality part includes path number 3( Right Speech), number 4( Right Action) and number 5( Right Livelihood).
The concentration part includes number 6( Right Effort), number 7( Right Mindfulness) and number 8( Right Concentration).
The wisdom part includes number 1( Right View) and number 2( Right Intention).
The insight will develop when all of the 8 noble paths are completed, especially when they are perfected at the same moment. The only way to perfect them is to practice diligently. When it will happen also depend on the past merit, and the virtue of each individual. The Eight Noble Paths, when perfected, will occur in the moment of magga citta( enlightened mind), which results in transforming a layperson’s mind into the enlightened mind( ariya puggala).
The Four Noble Truths can be classified as origin and result.
Samudaya is the unwholesome origin, the result is dukkha.
Magga is the wholesome origin, the result is nirodha.
Magga is the origin of getting out of dukkha.
Nirodha is the result of the end of suffering.
There are both good origins and bad origins. The practice is contemplating on dukkha, both in the body and the mind, that it is unsatisfactory. Samudaya needs to be let go of, because it is the cause of suffering. Nirodha needs to be realized, and maga needs to be perfected.
Ariya Sacca( Four Noble Truths) is one of the Vipassana Bhumi. You need to understand and use it in practice by perfecting the Eightfold Paths and following the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. In brief, being mindful on the forms and the mentality( rupa and nama), or the Five Khanda( Five Aggregates) that is appearing and disappearing, until all the paths are clear and perfected. It means that the dukkha is known, the samudaya is eradicated, and the nirodha is realized. This is the end of suffering.