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[ Beginner's Questions ]

The Good Example[1]

"Beggars, a Beggar who does not know, trying to figure out[2] the scope[3] of some individual, should examine the individual and the Tathagata and by comparison determine whether that individual is a fully self-awakened one or not.

Two things should be examined:
things that can be understood by what is seen of what is done,
and things that can be understood by what is heard of what is said.[4].

He should ask himself: "Do I remember seeing or hearing any clearly wrong thing in the Tathagata?"

He will come to the conclusion: "I do not remember seeing or hearing any impure thing in the Tathagata."

And he makes comparison.

If the comparison is favorable, then he should ask himself: "Do I remember seeing or hearing any questionable thing in the Tathagata?"

He will come to the conclusion: "I do not remember seeing or hearing any questionable thing in the Tathagata."

And he makes comparison.

If the comparison is favorable, then he should ask himself: "Do I remember seeing any absolutely pure things in the Tathagata."

He will come to the conclusion: "I do remember seeing and hearing absolutely pure things in the Tathagata."

And he makes comparison.

If the comparison is favorable, he should ask himself: "Has this Venerable One been possessed of these skills for a long time or is this a recent development?"

If this individual has been possessed of these skills for a long time and this is not a recent development, he should ask himself: "Do the sorts of problems that exist only for individuals who have attained to fame exist for this individual or not?"

How come? Because it is only after an individual has attained fame that certain problems become apparent.[5]

If he determines: "This Venerable One has been possessed of these skills for a long time and those problems that exist for an individual only after he has attained fame do not exist for him," he should ask himself: "Does this individual behave himself out of fear or is he fearless?"

If he determines: "This individual is fearless and abstains from indulgence in the pleasures of the senses not from fear but because he has ended attachment for the pleasures of the senses."

If some other Beggar comes along and says: "How do you know this? I mean, how do you know of some other individual that he is fearless and abstains from indulgence in the pleasures of the senses not from fear but because he has ended attachment for the pleasures of the senses?" then he should be able to answer:

"It is because I have seen and heard for myself that this individual, whether he is in a retreat or in company, whether his companions are making progress or not making progress, whether they are leaders of men or whether they are engaged in worldly pursuits or whether they are not, this individual treats them all alike according to the same standard, he does not despise anyone."

If the comparison is favorable to this point, that individual should be questioned directly:

"Do wrong states that can be understood by what is seen of what is done, or that can be understood by what is heard of what is said exist in the Venerable One or not?"

If he is an enlightened being, he should be able to say: "Those wrong states that can be understood by what is seen or what is done, or that can be understood by what is heard of what is said do not exist in me."

If the individual is able to answer in this way, he should be questioned further:

"Do questionable states that can be understood by what is seen of what is done, or that can be understood by what is heard of what is said exist in the Venerable One or not?"

If he is an enlightened being, he should be able to say: "Those questionable states that can be understood by what is seen of what is done, or that can be understood by what is heard of what is said do not exist in me."

If the individual is able to answer in this way, he should be questioned further:

"Do absolutely pure states that can be understood by what is seen of what is done, or that can be understood by what is heard of what is said exist in the Venerable One or not?"

If he is an enlightened being, he should be able to say: "Those absolutely pure states that can be understood by what is seen of what is done, or that can be understood by what is heard of what is said exist in me. And this is my manner of living, this is my chosen path."

Beggars, a Beggar should visit such an individual so as to hear Dhamma. Such a teacher will reveal the dark and it's results and the light and it's results. Such a teacher will lead one who listens gradually higher and higher, from the excellent to the more excellent, point after point. And he will lead one to fulfillment in This Dhamma. And leading him to attaining fulfillment in This Dhamma he will lead him to know of the Tathagata: "The Buddha was the #1 Highest Self Awakened One. Well taught by the Tathagata is Dhamma. Those who follow, follow the Highest Way."

Addendum:

Short of a Teacher with such qualifications as are described here, how should one proceed?

The Buddha Suggests that if there is no Buddha from whom to learn, learn from an Arahant; if there is no Arahant, learn from a Non-Returner; if there is no Non-Returner, learn from a Once-Returner; if there is no Once-Returner, learn from a Streamwinner.[6]

Here, for one with no knowledge of the Dhamma, one with understanding of even one stanza of the Dhamma is worth listening to; and one should keep in mind the fact that it is possible in this system for an individual to know and understand (know and see) This Dhamma without yet having been able to attain it's goals ... in other words, the learner needs to be able to discriminate between what is well said and the actual behavior of one who may be giving good advice.

In the case of what is observed by way of sight and hearing, one should look for self-awareness in that individual as to his own shortcomings, if possible, to observe steady improvement, apology when wrong, corrective measures where appropriate; in short, openness about his shortcomings.

With regard to what might be revealed by him under direct questioning look for openness and self awareness of his shortcomings.

With regard to the Dhamma he teaches, insofar as it comes to opening up the dark and light in ways that are not clear simply from reading the suttas, look for clarity in his explanations, and in one's self, following his instructions look to see whether one is gradually being lead higher and higher, from the excellent to the more excellent, point after point. Look to whether it can be seen that one is being lead to fulfillment in This Dhamma. Look to whether it can be seen that one is being lead to know of the Tathagata: "The Buddha was the #1 Highest Self Awakened One. Well taught by the Tathagata is Dhamma. Those who follow, follow the Highest Way.[7]

 


 

Higher and Higher, or, the foundations of Streamwinning

. . . Adapted from: Middle Length Sayings I, #48; PTS ed. Horner trans. pp384ff. . . .[8]

Up past the state of the ordinary common man, one should examine the following conditions:

Do friendly acts of body, speech and mind toward my fellow Dhamma seekers increase in me both in public and in private?

Do I enjoy sharing with my fellow Dhamma seekers whatever material things I have righteously obtained, right down to the bottom of the bowl?

Do I continuously train myself in those habits of ethical culture which are faultless, spotless, without blemish, freeing, praised by wise men, untarnished, conducive to concentration?

Do such views as I hold conduce to the goal, are they such as are praised by the Aristocrats, making for the realization of The Way, leading onwards, leading one who follows to the end of Dukkha?

And how is one to determine this concerning one's views?

By reflecting on one's habits of mind This Way:

Am I personally obsessed by any thing owing to which, I, if my mind were obsessed by it, could not know, could not see things as they really are?

If one is obsessed by indulgence in sense pleasures, this is such an obsession of mind.

If one is obsessed by anger, this is such an obsession of mind.

If one is obsessed by lazy ways and inertia, this is such an obsession of mind.

If one is obsessed by fear and trembling, this is such an obsession of mind.

If one is obsessed by doubt, this is such an obsession of mind.

If one focuses one's attention on worldly matters, this is such an obsession of mind.

If one focuses one's attention on the world beyond, this is such an obsession of mind.

If one lives with one's fellow Dhamma seekers disputatious, quarrelsome, contentious, lives wounding with the weapons of the tongue, this is such an obsession of mind.

If one knows of one's self: I have no such obsession not got rid of, owing to which I, if my mind were obsessed by it, could not know, could not see things as they really are, this is the First Knowledge that one has gained that is truly Aristocratic, unworldly, higher than that of the common man, a factor of Streamwinning, when realized, the fruit of Streamwinning.

And again he reflects on himself:

Do I, when following, developing, cultivating such views gain calm, gain dying down?

If one knows of one's self: I, when following, developing, cultivating such views gain calm, gain dying down, this is the Second Knowledge that one has gained that is truly Aristocratic, unworldly, higher than that of the common man, a factor of Streamwinning, when realized, the fruit of Streamwinning.

And again he reflects:

Am I aware of another Teacher, Sorcerer or Brahmin, God or Man outside of this system who, teaches such views?

If he knows: "I am not aware of another Teacher, Sorcerer or Brahmin, God or Man outside this system who teaches such views," this is the Third Knowledge that one has gained that is truly Aristocratic, unworldly, higher than that of the common man, a factor of Streamwinning, when realized, the fruit of Streamwinning.

And again he reflects:

"Am I possessed of such conformity with Dhamma as indicates an individual who has such views?"[9]

And what is it that indicates an individual who has such conformity with Dhamma?

Whatever kind of offence he falls into he acts quickly to remove it, he confesses it, discloses it, declares it quickly to the Teacher or to intelligent fellow Brahma-farers; and having confessed, disclosed and declared it, he comes to restraint in the future.[10]

If he knows: "I am possessed of such conformity with Dhamma as indicates an individual who has such views," this is the Fourth Knowledge that one has gained that is truly Aristocratic, unworldly, higher than that of the common man, a factor of Streamwinning, when realized, the fruit of Streamwinning."

And again he reflects:

"Am I further possessed of such conformity with Dhamma as indicates an individual who has such views?"

And what is it that further indicates an individual who has such conformity with Dhamma?

If sucha one is zealous concerning the many things which should be done for fellow seekers, he becomes highly motivated to seek out even higher moral habit, higher mental development, greater wisdom.

If he knows: "I am such a one who is zealous concerning the many things which should be done for fellow seekers, and am highly motivated to seek out even higher moral habit, higher mental development and greater wisdom," this is the Fifth Knowledge that one has gained that is truly Aristocratic, unworldly, higher than that of the common man, a factor of Streamwinning, when realized, the fruit of Streamwinning.

And again he reflects:

"Am I possessed of the kind of strength a man is possessed of who is endowed with such views?

And what kind of strength is that? In the case of this case, while the Tathagata's Dhamma and Discipline are being taught he applies himself, pays attention, concentrates with all his mind, and listens to Dhamma with ready ear.

If he knows: "I am such a one who is possessed of the kind of strength a man is possessed of who is endowed with such views," this is the Sixth Knowledge that one has gained that is truly Aristocratic, unworldly, higher than that of the common man, a factor of Streamwinning, when realized, the fruit of Streamwinning.

And again he reflects:

"Am I further possessed of the kind of strength a man is possessed of who is endowed with such views?

And what kind of strength is that? In the case of this case, while the Tathagata's Dhamma and Discipline are being taught he acquires knowledge of the goal, he acquires knowledge of Dhamma, he acquires the enthusiasm associated with Dhamma.

If he knows: "I am such a one who is further possessed of the kind of strength a man is possessed of who is endowed with such views," this is the Seventh Knowledge that one has gained that is truly Aristocratic, unworldly, higher than that of the common man, a factor of Streamwinning, when realized, the fruit of Streamwinning.

Examining in this way, Beggars, one is examining well the Seven Factors of Streamwinning; Possessing these seven one has won the Seven Fruits of Streamwinning.

 


 

Just so this does not discourage too much the beginner, this is one of the most rigorous definitions of Streamwinner in the Suttas. Elsewhere one will find the state of Streamwinner defined as loosely as one who is steadfast in his faith in the fact that the Buddha has discovered the Way to the End of Dukkha.

The most common definition is that of the state of having been convinced that the Dhamma is well taught by the Buddha, that the Dhamma will lead one who follows it to the end of Dukkha, and that those who have reached the stages of Streamwinner, Once Returner, Non-Returner and Arahant have indeed followed this path.

Again, Streamwinner is defined as one who has broken the Three Lower Attachments to Rebirth: One Truth View, Doubt, and Foolish Views

The Streamwinner is one who has so reconstructed his mind as to make the attaining of the goal inevitable. Additionally he has so dissociated himself from the world as to make it impossible for his old kamma to cause him rebirth in Hell, as a Demon, or as an animal[11], and, additionally, he is alert enough at all times (including at death) (because he holds High View) to avoid any new action that would bring him to such a rebirth.

There are those that say that attaining Arahantship is a matter of seven rebirths. I would caution against this idea. The statement is made using the word for seven, that is true, but the word for seven is also the word for 100, 1000, 10,000, 100,000 and "a finite number." and I believe it is safer to count only on the last.)

 


[1] Adapted from: Middle Length Sayings I, #47 [MN 47] Discourse on Inquiring, PTS ed, Horner trans, pp 372ff; Wisdom, ed, Nanamoli/Bodhi trans, pp415ff. Here "adapted" means that this sutta, which was delivered in order for the people at the time to be able to determine whether or not the Buddha was the SammasamBuddha or #1 Highest Self-Awakened one, has been reworked to make it useful to determining whether or not some teacher here today claiming to be enlightened is worth following and learning from.

[2] Here is a case that defies my translation of vimaŋsa (see: The Four Power Paths.) To fit here even as "remember", "remember" needs to be understood as "reconstruct", re-arrange the members, or re-construct the image in the mind. I am just going to use "figure out" here and say it beats me. Horner and Nanamoli/Bodhi both use "inquire". The idea is you are sitting down wondering if your teacher is full of beans or fully awakened and knows what he is talking about. In order to "see" in your "mind's eye" the truth of the matter, you conjure in memory what you have seen and heard of the individual and you contrast this with what you understand to be proper behavior for an enlightened being. This is the technique as described in this sutta. This is certainly the process of "reminiscence", but is a sort of directed reminiscence. We could not say that, in an investigation of the qualifications of one's teacher we reminised about him to discover the truth.)

[3] pariyaya: pari=pass-arouna-sun, circum; ya=whatsoever

[4] The idea is not to go by report, but by what we actually see and hear, which is not possible for us with regard to the Buddha, so we must use the Suttas for what is seen and heard of what the Tathagata does and says.

[5] For example, his followers protect his reputation by concealing his faults; he is made the favored of wealthy and powerful individuals who secure for him secret pleasures; he uses his fame to bring about success for some and loss for others, and so forth. Also, of course, fame can cause arrogance and disdain in one who has not abandoned pleasures of the senses.

[6] see: The Four Pairs of Powerful Individuals

[7] In contrast to someone who, for example, might say words such as: "The Buddha was the pioneer of this system, but it has been developed much further than he ever could have imagined since his time; well taught by me is this dhamma; those who follow me, follow the highest way."

[8] [MN 48] This sutta does not specifically indicate that these views that are being spoken of are "Samma Ditthi" or High View, but it is my opinion that that is what is intended here, as is evidenced by the idea that the view leads "one who follows to the end of Dukkha," and that no teacher outside this system teaches such a view. Both Horner and Nanamoli/Bodhi yield to this conclusion mid way through their translations.

[9] Horner and N/B begin to insert "Right" here

[10] This means that it is indicative of the Streamwinner that he generally lives in accordance with the behavior indicated by the views being described here, but he is capable of lapse. When he does lapse, he quickly becomes conscious of the matter and swiftly takes corrective measures.

[11] This means that kamma manifests itself in effects on body through the five lower senses or on the mind, the Streamwinner, is able to see, because of his Samma Ditthi, that attachment to a certain food (material food, sense stimulation, intention, or state of consciousness) will result in rebirth in Hell, etc, and he is able to let that go.


 

References:

See: The Four Characteristics of the Streamwinner


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