Relinquishing Defilements via Three Rounds and Four Stages

February 4, 2016

Here we will try to link the concepts like tiparivattaya in the sutta to other basic concepts that we have discussed in other sections throughout the site. I want to emphasize that “relinquish” means “giving up voluntarily, through acquired wisdom”. When one acquires wisdom, one realizes that defilements arise due to cravings for sense pleasures; the real danger is when cravings for sense pleasures lead to bad kamma (such as killing) that makes one eligible for the apayas.

1. First, it should be clear that while the Buddha gained all 12 types of knowledges at once in attaining the Buddhahood, a normal human being will go through the tiparivattaya (or the three rounds of bondage) via four stages of Nibbana. We can compare this to building a new complex structure.

  • A Sotapanna overcomes the first round by gaining the basic knowledges on the Four Noble Truths: what suffering is, the causes for suffering, stopping the causes from taking place, and the way to stop causes. It is seeing the plan to construct a building. All the details are there.
  • The Sakadagami stage can be compared to actually starting to build the building. Once the framework of the building is done, the next stage is to complete the basic structure, which can be compared to the efforts of an Anagami.
  • Then when the building is all finished with the finer details, that is like attaining the Arahant stage. There is nothing more to be done.

2. Even though the above analogy gives the basic idea, we need to examine it in more detail. It is actually the Sotapanna Anugami (one who is striving to become a Sotapanna) who does the bulk of the work to learn the necessary background on “how to design and build the building”.

  • And he/she cannot do that without learning the key fundamentals from one who has gone through at least one of the three rounds (or the four stages), i.e., a Sotapanna Anugami must learn the true nature of the world from an Ariya (at least a Sotapanna). There are several posts on this that one can find by doing a keyword search or by looking through the posts under “Sotapanna stage of Nibbana“.

3. Just by having learned the true nature of this world (anicca, dikkha, anatta), a Sotapanna Anugami gradually removes a bulk of defilements and attains the Sotapanna stage; at this stage he/she can clearly see the Path to the Arahanthood, i.e., what needs to be done.

  • When he/she gets rid of micca ditthi by comprehending that it is not possible to achieve AND maintain ANYTHING to one’s satisfaction, he/she attains the Sotapanna stage. It is important to note that he/she did not have to remove any attachments BY FORCE. All he/she did was to comprehend Dhamma to the level to see not only the unfruitfulness but the dangers of the rebirth process.
  • However, in order for the mind to grasp that it has to be devoid of the extreme levels of greed (lobha), hate (dosa), and that leads to gradual reduction of total ignorance (moha) via learning the true message of the Buddha, i.e., one needs to see the dangers in acting with lobha, dosa, moha.
  • One cannot grasp the dangers of the rebirth process if one does not believe that the four lowest realms with unimaginable suffering exists. Those who are striving to become Sotapannas need to carefully read about what constitutes micca ditthi, for example, “Key to Sotapanna Stage – Ditthi and Vicikicca“.

4. When one attains the Sotapanna stage, one reduces lobha (extreme greed), dosa (extreme hate), and moha (extreme ignorance) to the levels of raga (attachment to worldly pleasures), patigha (tendency to become irritated when one does not get one wants), and avijja (not fully knowing the true nature of the world). These terms are discussed in “Lobha, Dosa, Moha versus Raga, Patigha, Avijja“.

  • By going through this first round of the tiparivattaya, a Sotapanna removes the bulk of defilements as described in another post. This illustrates how one is capable of doing immoral acts that makes one to be eligible for the apayas, just because one has micca ditthi.
  • It is important to realize that there are many people with micca ditthi who go through their lives without doing any such horrible acts. However, the possibility to do such an act remains with one through future lives until one attains the Sotapanna stage; this is what is meant by anusaya, the hidden defilements. They can be removed only via learning and comprehending Dhamma.

5. What is the reason that a Sotapanna WILL NOT do any highly immoral act that makes him/her eligible to be born in the apayas? It is not something he/she does by thinking through. When one truly comprehends the anicca nature, then it sinks into one’s mind that no matter what one can gain by doing such an act, it is going to far more dire consequences in the future. Not only that, but “what is the point of harming another being for anything in this world that one will have to eventually give up anyway?”.

  • For example, one may kill someone and get a million dollars without getting caught, and may live a luxurious life. But he/she will pay for it by being born in the apayas for millions of years to come.
  • When one comprehends the anicca nature, one realizes deep down the foolishness (and the dangers) of such acts. The anusaya (craving) for such acts will be removed when one attains the Sotapanna stage, and one would have removed such “gathi” or character without a trace left. Again, there are many posts on these concepts.

6. The second round of the tiparivattaya is tackled in by a Sotapanna to first become a Sakadagami, and then to become an Anagami. An Angami has gone through the second round.

  • Remember that a Sotapanna has reduced lobha, dosa, moha to the levels of raga, patigha, and avijja; see #4 above. Raga means the attachments for things in this world, which are three basic types: (i) Kama raga means attachment to sense pleasures, i.e., those available in kama loka. (ii) Rupa raga means attachment to jhanic pleasures in rupa loka, and (iii) Arupa raga means attachment to jhanic pleasures in arupa loka.
  • Kama raga is actually of two “strengths”: “klesha kama” means attachment to sense pleasures, and “vatthu kama” (“vattu” means “property”) is stronger because one also wants to own such sense objects.
  • When a Sotapanna sees the perils of sense pleasures and the tendency to angry (patigha), both kama raga and patigha are first reduced to the levels of a Sakadagami; here, one actually loses the “vatthu kama” completely. Thus, a Sakadagami is said to be “healthy forever” because he will never be born with a body that is subject to diseases, i.e., he will never be born at or below the human realm.
  • As one sees the perils of kama asvada starting at the Sotapanna stage, one begins to see the world more clearly; see, “Assāda, Ādīnava, Nissarana – Introduction“.

7. A Sakadagami makes more progress via contemplating the drawbacks or perils (adeenava) of sense pleasures, and overcomes the second round of bondage to become an Anagami. Thus at this stage one eliminates the “klesha kama” component of the kama raga, AND remainder of patigha.

  • Thus an Anagami has given up all attachments to the kama loka (those including the human and deva realms), and thus will not be born anywhere in kama loka.

8. Now we can see that an Anagami has only the rupa raga and arupa raga remaining with him/her (which are low levels of greed). There is no trace of hate (dosa) or friction (patigha) left, and thus only rebirths in the brahma realms are possible. Of course, there is still some of avijja left too.

  • When an Anagami overcomes those remaining defilements from his/her mind, the mind becomes totally purified and one attains the Arahant stage of Nibbana by overcoming the third round of the tiparivattaya.

9. We are bound to the unending cycle of rebirths via ten fetters called “sanyöjana = “san+yöjana”; see, “What is “San”? Meaning of Sansara (or Samsara)“; yojana means bond. Sanyojana is sometimes called samyojana.

  • These ten sanyojana (or samyojana) are also gradually removed as one goes through the three rounds or tiparivattaya in four stages.
  • At the Sotapanna stage, one removes the two sanyojana of sathkaya ditthi and silabbata paramasa by removing micca ditthi, and also removes the vicikicca sanyojana that is associated with moha, and thus reduces moha to avijja.
  • At the Sakadagami stage, one reduces the two sanyojana of kama raga and patigha, and those two completely removed by attaining the Anagami stage.
  • In terms of sanyojana, an Anagami has five left to remove: rupa raga, arupa raga, mana, uddacca, and avijja. When those are removed, one attains the Arahanthood.
  • Thus we can see that there are many types of analyses one can do. They all mean the same thing at the end: one needs to first comprehend the three characteristics of this world (anicca, dukkha, anatta) to some extent to reach the Sotapanna stage by overcoming the first round of tiparivattaya. Then going through the second and third rounds of bondage via the next three stages of Nibbana leads to the complete comprehension of anicca, dukkha, anatta, which automatically leads to stopping the sansaric journey filled with so much suffering.

10. It should also be clear that this whole journey is a mission of seeking the truth about this world of 31 realms. The more one understands the true nature, one’s mind AUTOMATICALLY gives up attachments to this world VOLUNTARILY.

11. Thus, now we can see that the Dhammacakkappavattana sutta (or Dhamma Cakka Pavattana sutta) gives the blueprint of what Buddha Dhamma is all about. What the Buddha did in the following 45 years was to describe this blueprint in detail in various ways.

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