June 16, 2020
Getting Rid of “Me and Mine” Is a Step-by-Step Process
1. In the previous post, we discussed that the perception of “me” and “mine” is the root cause of suffering. See, “Me” and “Mine” – The Root Cause of Suffering.”
- We discussed that one would not be able to remove that perception of “me” until attaining the Arahanthood.
- Therefore, that should not be the focus at the beginning of one’s practice.
- First, one needs to get rid of the ten types of wrong views (micchā diṭṭhi.) Until one comprehends the truth of kamma/vipāka, the existence of the rebirth process, the creation of a “mental body” (a gandhabba in the case of a human bhava) at the cuti-patisandhi moment, etc. one cannot get on the path to Nibbāna. See, “Micchā Diṭṭhi, Gandhabba, and Sōtapanna Stage.”
- The second step is to remove sakkāya diṭṭhi. We will discuss that in this post.
Diṭṭhi, Saññā, and Citta Vipallāsa – Three Obstacles in Getting Rid of Any Bad Habit
2. Vipallāsa means “distortions” in mind. If we do not have a clear understanding of the relevant concepts, we may take unwise actions based on our wrong views. Let us take an example to clarify.
- Consider an alcoholic, a person addicted to drinking. The addiction comes from the perception that it is good to have a drink to forget about any problems one may have, or just to enjoy that “drunken state of mind.”
- Urged on by a good friend, that person starts to learn about the consequences of drinking. It can affect one’s health adversely. Furthermore, it can make one do immoral deeds while drunk, and that can bring bad rebirth. Now he fully understands that he had wrong views about drinking, i.e., he had diṭṭhi vipallāsa about drinking. Now diṭṭhi vipallāsa about drinking are absent in his mind.
- Yet, he finds that the temptation to “have a drink” is still there. While he would not get drunk as before, the desire to “have a drink” can popup once-in-a-while. For example, if a friend is having a drink, he may join in. Thus, saññā vipallāsa is still there. To get rid of that, he needs to keep contemplating the adverse consequences of drinking and also keep resisting the urge to have another drink.
3. Then, if that person keeps up with that practice, he will lose that saññā vipallāsa too. But a trace of the desire may be left as citta vipallāsa. Under extreme temptation, he may think about “having a drink.” That is citta vipallāsa. Now, another effect of “continued practice” will take care of that too in a bit different way.
- With time, his body would not even tolerate a single drink. Instead of getting satisfaction from that drink, he might get a headache. That is when he would voluntarily give up even a single drink.
- That is because our bodily functions can be affected by the “state of mind”. That starts happening from the very beginning, even while one is trying to comprehend Tilakkhana (anicca nature.) But the effects become clear after one has made significant progress.
- That is a simple explanation. More details at “Vipallāsa (Diṭṭhi, Saññā, Citta) Affect Sankhāra.”
Only Diṭṭhi Vipallāsa Removed at the Sotapanna Stage
4. At the Sotapanna stage, one would only “see with wisdom” that it is unfruitful to consider anything as “me'” or “mine”. As we saw in the previous post mentioned above, it is one’s body that one considers being “one’s own.”
- The Buddha dissected what we consider to be “me” into five parts. One physical and four mental entities. That comes from our perception of “me” as “my body” and “my mind.” Mind phenomena separate into four parts: we feel things happening (vedana) and recognize them (saññā.) Based on that, we think about how to respond (saṅkhāra) and act with certain expectations (viññāṇa.)
- We have discussed those five entities or aggregates in detail. See, “The Five Aggregates (Pañcakkhandha).”
- Our craving for those five aggregates (pañca khandhā) is pañcupādānakkhandhā.
- We crave those because we have the wrong view that those five aggregates are fruitful and provide long-lasting happiness. That wrong view is sakkāya diṭṭhi.
Sakkāya Means Pañcupādānakkhandhā
5. As stated in the Cūḷavedalla Sutta (MN 44), sakkāya means pañcupādānakkhandhā (or pañca upādāna khandhā.)
- We can see that by looking at the meaning of sakkāya, which comes from “sath” + “kāya.” Here “sath” means “good” and “kāya” means “collection.”
- In the five aggregates, we have five aggregates or ‘collections” or “piles.” For example, as we remember, the rūpa aggregate includes one’s internal rūpa and external rūpa. Those include the present rūpa, past rūpa, and our visualizations of “future rūpa.”
- Out of them, the most important is our own body or “internal rūpa” (its present status, our memory of its past, and our expectations of its future status.) Invariably, those “internal rūpa” are in the rūpa upādāna khandhā.
- That rūpa upādāna khandhā will also include external rūpa that we like or crave for. That may include one’s family, friends, possessions, etc.
- Then the other four aggregates would include our mental attributes involving rūpa.
- Since we assume all five upādāna khandhā to be good for us or fruitful, i.e., they are sath kāya (which rhymes as sakkāya.)
- More details at “Tanhā Paccayā Upādāna – Critical Step in Paṭicca Samuppāda.“
Sakkāya Diṭṭhi Means the View That Pañcupādānakkhandhā Are Fruitful
6. Now we have a good idea of what is meant by sakkāya diṭṭhi. It just means we like/crave those parts of the five aggregates because we have the view that they are fruitful and will bring long-lasting happiness.
- We become happy when all those that we crave provide us pleasure. That means they stay exactly as we want them to be.
- If things do not proceed the way we want, then we worry and suffer.
- The Sakkāyadiṭṭhi Sutta (SN 22.155) summarizes what we discussed in #5 and #6.
7. “Sakkāyadiṭṭhi Sutta (SN 22.155)” states, “rūpe kho, bhikkhave, sati, rūpaṃ upādāya, rūpaṃ abhinivissa sakkāyadiṭṭhi uppajjati. Vedanāya sati … saññāya sati … saṅkhāresu sati … viññāṇe sati, viññāṇaṃ upādāya, viññāṇaṃ abhinivissa sakkāya diṭṭhi uppajjati.”
Translated: “When one is attached to various rūpa (especially one’s body), places a high value on them, sakkāya diṭṭhi (identity view) arises. When one attaches to vedana, saññā, saṅkhāra, and viññāṇa associated with such rūpa, and places a high value on them, the identity view arises.”
- In other words, one has sakkāya diṭṭhi if one sees this world as fruitful and can lead to long-lasting happiness.
- With that wrong view, one is under the impression that it is possible to have total control of one’s future by making sure to accumulate “enough stuff” thereby ensuring long-lasting happiness.
- That perception of “having full control” is also expressed by “atta.” Note that the mundane meaning of “a person” is usually expressed by “attā” with a “long a.”
- Therefore, there are two meanings of the Pāli word “atta.” The ultimate or absolute (paramattha) meaning of “having full control” is expressed by “atta.” The ordinary or relative meaning (vohāra) is “attā” with a “long a” that refers to a “person.”
- Let us discuss this further.
Atta Can Have a Mundane (Vohāra) or an Absolute (Paramattha) Meaning
8. Even though a “person” does not exist in the paramattha sense, any living person has to use “me” and “mine” in interactions with others. Even the Buddha talked about “HIS” previous lives. He often started a discourse by saying, “let ME explain this concept.”
- Furthermore, the Buddha emphasized that one should abide by the accepted standard rules of society. It is unwise to try to enforce the fact that in ultimate reality, there is no “me” or a “self.”
- There were many wealthy people, and even kings, who had attained magga phala and still engaged in their mundane “householder” activities. Of course, at the Arahant stage, one has to become a bhikkhu.
- Throughout the Tipitaka, the word “atta” appears with several different meanings. It is important to be able to use the appropriate meaning in a given context.
- That is no different from using the word “right” in the following two contexts with entirely different meanings: “turn right” and “you are right.” In the first, it refers to the direction, and in the second, it means “correct.”
Atta Meaning “Me” in Mundane Usage
9. There are many Tipitaka verses, where “attā” means a “person.” The following are several examples.
- “Attānaṃ damayanti paṇḍitā” in Dhammapada verse 6.80 means “The wise persons control themselves”.
- “Attano sukhamicchati” in Dhammapada verse 21.291 means “one seeks one’s own happiness.” Also, note the word iccha (desire) in “sukhamicchati” is “sukham” + “icchati.”
- In the Attadīpa Sutta (SN 22.43), “attadīpā viharatha” means “make an island of yourself,” meaning “one has to seek one’s own refuge.”
- We will discuss the absolute or paramattha meaning of “attā” in the next post.
What is in “Me” (Attā)?
10. From ancient times, people have wondered about how to define “me” (or “attā” in Pāli.) Of course, one’s body is the priority. But one’s identity is also related to one’s mental activities. Thoughts, feelings, perceptions are unique to each person.
- Anything that one can think of as a part of “me” or ‘self” or “attā” is included in the five entities of rūpa, vedana, saññā, saṅkhāra, and viññāṇa.
- It is only a Buddha that can do a thorough analysis and describes a person with those five “parameters.” That analysis is taught by all Buddhas.
- Of course, each Buddha figures that out each time, on his own.
- Normally there is at most one Buddha in a given eon. But our current eon is a special one with five Buddhas. Remnants of the teachings of the previous Buddha (Buddha Kassapa) prevailed through Vedic teachings and were there when Buddha Gotama was born.
That Terminology Was There Even Before Buddha Gotama – How Is That Possible?
11. Many people have the perception that Buddha Gotama “adopted” that five-fold analysis from the Vedas because those terms appeared in Vedic literature before Buddha Gotama.
- There was Buddha Kassapa on this Earth before Buddha Gotama. Buddha Kassapa’s teachings (especially the true meanings of key concepts) were lost with time. But many terms, including the concepts of kamma, kamma vipāka, five aggregates, and many others, were incorporated into Vedic teachings and transmitted through many generations. Of course, the Vedic teachings used the Sanskrit language, which was derived from Pāli or Magadha language. Sanskrit means “derived from” (“san” + “krutha” or සන් කෘත or සංස්කෘත in Sinhala.)
- The Pāli words like kamma, Nibbāna, Paṭicca Samuppāda were made “more impressive-sounding” by mostly adding the “r” sound. Those three Pāli words became karma, nirvāna, and Pratītyasamutpāda, respectively, in Sanskrit.
- The same is true for the concept of five aggregates or pañca khandha. The Vedic teachings adopted them as five skandhas.
Whose Concepts are Kamma, Nibbāna, Paṭicca Samuppāda, etc.?
12. A full account requires possibly a whole book. But there are several instances in the Tipitaka where Buddha Gotama explained to various Brahmins that many of their teachings originated with Buddha Kassapa.
- For example, in the Māgandhiya Sutta (MN 75), Buddha Gotama has a conversation with a Brahmin who quoted a verse from the Vedas. Buddha Gotama then says that verse was initially uttered by Buddha Kassapa and that it come down through generations in the Vedas without the true meaning. I have discussed that in the post, “Arōgyā Paramā Lābhā..“
- When Prince Siddhartha was born, such Vedic teachings were there. We have a somewhat similar situation right now, with many vital concepts misinterpreted.
- I mentioned the above because I see in online forums many people wonder whether Buddha Gotama “adopted” Vedic concepts. Those concepts originally came from Buddha Kassapa. But any Buddha discovers them by his own efforts.
- Then the question comes up as to the “evolution of humans.” There was no evolution of humans. Humans existed on Earth (with Brahma-like bodies) at the beginning of the Earth. This is why it would take a book to discuss all these things. I have given a brief account of the “beginnings” in “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27).”
We will discuss the concept of sakkāya diṭṭhi further in the next post.