2020-05-27: Four Noble Truths: Patipada (3 of 5) Direct Experience
9:17PM May 27, 2020
fourth noble truth
The topic of the Four Noble Truths has different interpretations, different understandings, different applications of this basic teaching, a teaching that does lead to realization, to awakening, describes a process for that. And in that process of becoming awake, the result sometimes is called vijjā in Pali, 'knowledge', some translators call it "true knowledge." That there's an awakening, there's an understanding, there's a knowledge and knowing.
Some people translate, use the term: "direct knowing", that direct experiencing of something that's really seeing something clearly and becoming free. And then there is a whole chapter of teachings by the Buddha about the Eightfold Path. And the very first sutta in there begins by saying that with someone who has this awakened knowledge, who's really let go deeply, that right view will spring up or the right view will emerge out of that. It doesn't say that someone with enlightened awareness, then thinks about right view or adopts right view, or understands right view, rather it emerges, it appears and then it goes on to say if someone has right view, then right intention springs up; "springs up" is Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation.
Someone with right intention, right actions springs up. With right action right speech springs up. With the right speech right livelihood springs up. With right livelihood, right effort springs up. With right effort, right mindfulness springs up. And with right mindfulness, right concentration springs up. It's very significant that they repeat this word "springs up" over and over again.
It's not an action a person does. It's not like this is what we have to do. It's rather a result of what happens when we let go deeply, really deeply. We let go into something really good. Something here emerges. And one of the things that emerges is the eightfold path, it springs up in a person. And as I said yesterday, we become the eightfold path. The eightfold path is not something we do. The eightfold path is what we are when we've done the work of practice, when we've gone deep down into the practice and we become the eightfold Path in a certain way.
In some of this may be it's interesting to look at the word 'right'. Many people in English have some trouble with the word 'right'. It's a translation of a word, sammā in Pali, samyañc in Sanskrit. And I don't know how much to make of this, but if you look in the Pali dictionary, there are two definitions for sammā. One is right or proper, complete. And the other one is it's an instrument it's like a ladle or an instrument; the tool, used for sacred rituals. Not Buddhists, but in pre-Buddhist religions, and I suspect that this word sammā has very rich religious connotations in ancient India that is lost by the English word, 'right'. If you go look at, especially at the Sanskrit roots of the word as sammā, it means to come together, to gather together and to unite or to come together and go in the same direction, to be unified and how it's going or how we're walking, to be unified and that lends itself to being understood as this coming together as being complete, as being entire.
It could be that it's the complete view or the unified view, the harmonious view. It's the view when everything's comes together in harmony or everything comes together to be whole. I like the idea of calling it complete view, in the sense that it's, everything is included now. There's a completion, there's nothing left out. There's a wholeness in that process. There's a sacred connection now, sacred way of instrument of life. And we have become that sacred instrument.
The word sammā is translated into English as 'right.' It's a useful translation in some ways, if you think of it as the right tool for the job that you have to do, that maybe is good, but it's much more limited, the word 'right' to probably the richness of the word sammā, especially when we realize that one of the primary associations with these eightfold path factors, right view and so forth is, how a person has become when they're awakened. There may be complete works better or full or unified or the harmonious view.
When then right view is defined in many different ways in the suttas, teachings. In fact, because there's so many different ways, the ancient texts will actually make a differentiation between the right view that it's mundane and that which is super mundane, or right view that's part of living a good life versus right view that has to do with becoming liberated. And the liberating one, "right view", is defined as seeing suffering, the arising of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice leading to the cessation of suffering or the practice walking the cessation of suffering. We don't really know quite how to understand the Pali and it gets more tricky to understand this when we realize we're talking not about a beginner's practice, the eightfold path going towards awakening, but what a person becomes when they are awakened.
We become the Eightfold Path, we enter the stream of the Eightfold Path, we create the current of the Eightfold Path. And so we're letting go into something that carries us into something that supports us and has us. The deep cessation, the deep dropping away that goes on is not a loss, but it's a phenomenal gain. But it's not a gain that you could hold on to because then as soon as you close around the fist of the open hand and close around the fist, close up to grab the open hand and make a fist, you've lost it.
It doesn't go along with the usual way that many of us will operate and wanting and being. In many of the ways in which we have a self, the self-identity, self-views, we have is a fisting up, a contracting in and of itself. And this deep letting go goes against the current of the usual way of being in the world and wanting and having something and being someone. The strong habit of that direction. And to break that habit, and really begin to appreciate the openness, the absence and openness that comes with letting go and to have this so the experience of it's so present in one's heart or in one's being, they become a reference point that really begins to work on us and open us more. And we realize that this is the way forward, this is what's worthwhile. It's not worthwhile going back and clinging and holding. Let's explore this, let's become wise in this whole experience of letting go.
So here what we're seeing is, on one hand, we have these four liberating insights. We have suffering, the arising of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice leading to cessation of suffering becoming associated with something called the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path that comes out of that experience and in some places we actually have these five things associated in the suttas. In some of the poetry that they have, they have discussions about suffering, the arising of suffering, the disappearance of suffering, the practice of leading to the disappearance of suffering and the Eightfold Path. And so, there's the beginning to bring these together, these two, and this bring them together, becomes complete in a few of the teachings of the Buddha and I say few, where he said he were the fourth noble truth is explained or defined by the Noble Eightfold Path. in this very famous discourse called the first sermon of the Buddha, he did that there, he connects it there. And partly it's there because it's really that when you really become the practice or realize the practice that goes with the cessation of suffering, it becomes almost one in the same, the Eightfold Path.
So it's a coming together. And that coming together of those two, there's a wordplay that goes on. That's a little bit more confusing in English perhaps. And maybe I said this yesterday, but the word 'way'... Usually, the fourth noble truth is described as defined as the way leading to the cessation of suffering. And the word way can also mean a road or a path. But the word 'way' is translating a Pali word that means a method or a practice. And way can also mean a method or a practice that we do, a way to do something is a method.
When we have this word in English, the way leading to cessation of suffering and we have an association of this way, with the magga with a path, a full path, some people will, without even thinking, associate 'way' with 'path' as being one in the same thing. Therefore, the fourth noble truth becomes the Noble Eightfold Path. A probably more accurate way of reading the ancient texts at least, is that the practice that leads to liberation is seeing the inconstancy, the deep experience of inconstancy that allows us to let go and that deep letting go becomes synonymous with now inhabiting or becoming the Eightfold Path, and the EIghtfold Path is just naturally what we do, how we are. And this is a fascinating thing that we become this thing, that letting go allows us to be transformed. And it's a transformation that, in the kind of modern English language, we might want to consider as being an ethical transformation.
The eightfold path has very deep ethical connotations, or associations or expressions, especially right action, right speech and right livelihood, but the other ones also do and they have a very deep interpersonal aspect to them. The eightfold path has a lot to do with how we live life interpersonally and so now it's getting richer and richer, that this deep experience of letting go, deep experience of letting go that leads to becoming the eightfold path, transforms how we live in the world and how we interact ethically with people, not because we're supposed to, but because we do. It's who we are. So tomorrow then I'll talk more about the Eightfold Path. And, it's a wonderful teaching and in the meantime: just let go. Thank you.