1. It is good hear from those who have been able to “get to a peaceful state of mind” by reading posts at this site. This is nothing but early stages of Nibbana or “niveema” or “cooling down”, and is also called the “niramisa sukha“. That is a characteristic of “pure Dhamma” and I cannot take any credit for it. This post explains how it happens.
- In other posts I have discussed why “formal meditation” is not required to attain the Sotapanna stage; see, for example, “What is the only Akusala Removed by a Sotapanna?“. Here would like to discuss how this “niramisa sukha” arises when one reads (or listens) to the true Dhamma, and how that can take one all the way to the Sotapanna stage.
- Before that, I need to point out that the “Search” box on the top right can be very useful in navigating the site when one is looking for specific information. Avoid writing sentences or even phrases, but just enter keywords. One could narrow down the number of posts that come up by adding more relevant keywords.
- By the way, one could read earlier posts on niramisa sukha by just typing “niramisa sukha” in the Search box.
- On the issue of writing to me, it is best to make a comment on a web page if you have not sent me any emails before. My hotmail account ([email protected]) puts emails from unknown addresses to the junk folder most of the time. If you have previously received an email from me, it is OK to write directly; but if it regarding a particular post, it is better to make the comment under that web page. If you have written to me and did not get a response from me, please try sending it as a comment under a web page.
2. Our minds are under stress constantly due to its tendency to know everything that is going on not only at the physical vicinity, but also things that happened in the past or one’s hopes for the future.
- That tendency intensifies when we have excessively greedy or hateful thoughts; these two are called kamachanda (strong greed) and vyapada (strong hate), the two key elements of the five hindrances that “cover our minds”. The other three hindrances are basically due to those and also due to our ignorance how nature operates.
- Think about how “you were on fire” when you got either excessively angry or excessively greedy or lustful.
- When one reads (or listens) attentively to anything of interest, all those hindrances are REDUCED. However, depending on what type of material it is, this suppression may not be very effective. For example, if one is reading a scientific or geography paper, they may be reduced, but if one reading a pornographic novel or listening to rap music, they may actually increase.
- If one is reading Dhamma that is not true Dhamma (or for that matter, any type of religious material), it will still reduce those five hindrances because that material will not induce any greedy or hateful thoughts.
3. However, there is a big difference in reading (or listening to) true Buddha Dhamma. This is of course something one can verify for oneself (as many have).
- Listening or reading true Dhamma elevates the “preethi” (or “piti“) cetasika making one joyful, which in turn makes the body “light”, causes physical calmness, and lead to samadhi: “piti manassa kayo passadati, passadi kayo sukhantiyati, sukhino samadhiyati“.
- We will discuss this at a deeper level, in Abhidhamma, where we will discuss how various “mind made rupa” like lahuta (lightness), Muduta (Elasticity), and Kammannata (wieldiness) can make one’s body “light” or “heavy” depending on the mental status; see, “Rupa (Material Form) – Table“. For example, they are related to the cetasika like kayapassaddhi (tranquility of mental body); cittapassaddhi (tranquility of consciousness); see, #6 of “Cetasika (Mental Factors)“.
- And this samadhi is attained via the suppression of ALL FIVE hindrances; it is commonly called “samatha“. One does not need to do a special “samatha bhavana” (like the breath meditation) to calm the mind. If one pays enough attention and gets absorbed in the subject matter while listening to a desana or reading Dhamma, one could even attain the Sotapanna stage.
4. This is the samadhi (or feeling of well-being) one feels when reading (or listening) to true Dhamma. It is also called early stages of “niramisa sukha“; see the chart, “Niramisa Sukha – In a Chart“. It can be printed for reference while reading this post.
- “Niramisa sukha“, by definition, can be experienced only after one hears the true message of the Buddha: anicca, dukkha, anatta, even though some sense of calm can also be experienced when focusing on any religious activity in general where the difference between what is moral and what is immoral is taught.
- True niramisa sukha can be experienced only when one starts seeing a glimpse of the “true nature of this world” and becomes a “Sotapanna Anugami“, i.e., one on the way to become a Sotapanna. This means one is exposed to the true meaning of existence in this world of 31 realms: anicca, dukkha, anatta. Now one has the POTENTIAL to become a Sotapanna.
- When one strives and comprehends the key message of the Buddha that seeking lasting happiness cannot be realized by staying in this beginningless rebirth process, one attains the the Sotapanna stage. Then one can “see” the path to Nibbana and proceed on one’s own. One has removed an “Earth-equivalent of defilements” through Samma Ditthi; this is called “dassanena pahathabba“, i.e., “removing defilements via true vision or wisdom”; see, “What is the Only Akusala Removed by a Sotapanna?“.
- Higher stages of Nibbana normally need formal meditation techniques. The most comprehensive is given in the Maha Satipattana Sutta. However, the early parts of the Maha Satipattana Sutta, especially the Kayanupassana section, is geared towards help attaining the Sotapanna stage.
5. The key difference between a person following the mundane Eightfold path and the Noble Eightfold Path is the following: One on the mundane path avoids immoral activities because one is afraid of their consequences. However, a Sotapanna avoids dasa akusala because he/she has seen the FRUITLESSNESS of such immoral activities.
- For example, “What is the point of lying to make money, if that cannot provide one with lasting happiness?” That can be applied to any of the 7 immoral activities done by speech and the body. And that is due to the cleansing of the mind and reduction of the 3 akusala done by the mind, where the one of them (niyata micca ditthi) has now been permanently REMOVED; see, “Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)“.
- Thus the moral behavior (“sila” or “seela“) of a Sotapanna comes from within, and it is called the “Ariyakäntha Seela“. It is unshakeable, and remains through future lives.
- Just like someone who has really learned algebra instinctively knows how to solve a previously-unsolved algebra problem, a Sotapanna instinctively avoids doing dasa akusala of “apayagami strength”, i.e., those actions that lead to birth in the apayas. (On the other hand, a person who has only memorized how to solve a few algebra problems can only solve those; he/she is likely to make mistakes in dealing with previously unencountered problems).
- Once one sees a glimpse of Samma Ditthi, one can cultivate it further; also the other seven components of the Noble Eightfold Path (Samma Sankappa, Samma Vaca, etc) automatically follow.
6. During the time of the Buddha, many people attained the Sotapanna stage during the first discourse they listened to. Attaining higher stages of Nibbana could take more formal meditation by cultivating the basics that one has just grasped.
- Visaka attained the Sotapanna stage at 7 years of age, and could not attain any higher stages until death. King Bimbisara also died as a Sotapanna. Yet they are guaranteed to attain full Nibbana within 7 bhava.
- Upatissa and Kolita attained the Sotapanna stage while listening to a single verse; it took them a few days to attain the Arahant stage. They of course became the two chief disciples of the Buddha, Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Moggallana.
- Thus, formal meditation is normally needed to attain the higher stages of Nibbana above the Sotapanna stage. Of course, there are exceptions, like Bahiya Daruchiriya, who attained the Arahantship straightaway while listening to a verse uttered by the Buddha.
7. When one really feels that one has experienced significant level of niramisa sukha, one could use that experience to build-up on that samadhi.
- One can use the phrase, “Etan santan etan paneetan, yadidan sabba sankhara samato, sabbupati patinissaggo, tanhakkhayo virago nirodho, Nibbananti”.
- Here is a recording of the Pali verse by the Venerable Thero (recited 7 times; note the volume control on the right):
- One could say in English, “It is peaceful, it is serene, the expelling of all sankhara, breaking of bonds, removing greed and hate; Nibbana”.
- What matters in not the actual words, but the understanding one has in one’s mind, even though it may be best to recite in Pali with the understanding. One should be recalling the “cooling down” that one has achieved.
- However, one should not spend too much time on this, as that will take time away from learning Dhamma. Learning Dhamma could make attaining samadhi faster.
8. Whenever one become restless (the uddhacca kukkucca hindrance becoming strong) and get the urge to “go watch a movie” or “stop by a friend’s house”, one could try reading (listening to) Dhamma. Similarly, if one gets bored and lethargic (thina middha hindrance becoming strong), try the same; ditto for when one is struggling to figure out “how to proceed on a key decision” due to the vicikicca hindrance.
- The “preethi” or joyfulness that arises with samadhi WILL keep all those hindrances down, especially the thina middha. This is the real test of one’s ability to get to samadhi. If the state of samadhi is at a significant level, one should be able to follow the procedure in #7 above and “not fall asleep” even right after a good meal when one usually gets sleepy.
9. Even though learning Dhamma in general will lead to the above discussed effects, comprehending anicca, dukkha, anatta WILL make a big difference. However, that may take more reading and comprehension of the wider world view of the Buddha: how kamma operates, 31 realms of existence, the rebirth process, paticca samuppada, etc.
- It is not possible even to suggest which order of topics to choose, because each person is different. And it is imperative that one should not rush through them. Gradual, steady progress is better than getting the hopes high and feeling depressed if things do not proceed fast enough.
- What I would suggest, in general, is to first focus on the concepts that one starts understanding easily and slowly expand the “knowledge base” by reading on other relevant links.
- Also, it is good idea to go back and read some key posts that one has not read for a while. One may grasp more content from the same post when read at a later time, because what is learnt in the mean time could expose deeper meanings. I know this by experience. This is the uniqueness of Buddha Dhamma; the learning never ends, rather it just intensifies with added evidence.
- It will stop being a “chore” and will become joyful as one learns more and more. The more one learns, the more energized one will become.
10. Even though it may not seem to be a “big deal”, understanding anicca (or cultivating the anicca sanna) will make a huge change in one’s progress, after one gains some understanding of the basic concepts like rebirth and kamma.
- I had struggled intensely for 3-4 years and made an enormous advance in listening to one discourse on anicca, dukkha, anatta. But of course I had learned a lot of background material by that time, and had given a lot of thought to various concepts.
- Still, by knowing what things are really important could make things easier for someone just starting out, or has been “on the wrong path”.
- My hope is that many will be able to attain at least the first stage of Nibbana much more quickly than I did.
Next, “How to Taste Nibbana“,…