January 29, 2016; revised January 7, 2019
1. We discussed the tiparivattaya (three rounds of bondage) briefly in the post “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta – Introduction“. Here we will discuss it in bit more depth.
- We remind ourselves that the Buddha delivered this sutta to the five ascetics right after attaining the Buddhahood. It is widely known that the five ascetics were first reluctant to believe that the ascetic Siddhartha had actually attained the Buddhahood.
- If those five ascetics, who were with the ascetic Siddhartha for five years, could not even believe Buddha’s own words, then how can any of us figure out whether another person has attained magga phala? Some people ask me whether there is a way to know some other person has attained the Sōtapanna stage. Unless that person declares it, there is no way to know. Even then, there is no way to verify it. Now let us get back to the sutta.
2. There were three types of knowledges (per each of the three rounds in the tiparivattaya) that arose in the Buddha per each of the Four Noble Truths, as declared them in sections 4 through 7 of the sutta.
- We will follow the text of the sutta (you may want to print it out so that you can refer to each section): Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
- Of course the Buddha attained all 12 types of knowledges together upon attaining the Buddhahood, but we (normal humans) attain them in stages.
3. There are three rounds or barriers (ti + parivatta) to overcome: (1) The apāyās or the four lowest realms, (2) kāma lōka (human realm and the 6 deva realms), (3) rūpa lōka (16 rūpi brahma realms) and arūpa lōka (4 arūpi brahma realms).
- At each round, one comprehends the Four Noble Truths to a certain extent. For example, when one becomes a Sōtapanna and overcomes the first round (barrier), he/she understands all Four Noble truths to some extent. When one becomes an Anāgāmi by overcoming the second round, he/she has understood all Four Noble truths to a higher level, and it is complete at the Arahant stage.
- The Four Noble Truths are discussed at, “Four Noble Truths – Suffering and Its Elimination“.
First Noble Truth in Three Rounds
4. First is the knowledge about the suffering in the wider world of 31 realms, as stated in verse 4(i) (Idam dukkham ariyasaccan’ti me). This was a Dhamma had that never been known to the world. This is what a normal human comprehends when he/she attains the Sōtapanna stage, and overcomes the first round of bondage in the three rounds (tiparivattaya), i.e., becomes free of rebirths in the apāyās.
- Then that knowledge becomes even more clear when one starts to lose attachments to this world; verse 4(ii). This is the second round of tiparivattaya that is grasped at the sakadagami stage and is intensified at the Anāgāmi stage for a human being. The key word is “pariññeyyan’ti“, which means “seeing with less biases for sense cravings” or “pirisindha” (“piri” or liking + “sindha” or removed in Sinhala). Thus with the Anāgāmi stage, one is released from rebirths in the kāma lōka (i.e, overcome the second round of tiparivattaya).
- The last round is when “seeing” is done with all sense attachments removed, as stated by “pariññātan’ti“. This happens to a human when attaining the Arahant stage. But here it is stated, “pariññātan’ti mé“, as stated by the Buddha, where “mé” means “I”. This is what is stated in verse 4(iii). This will become more clear in section 8.
- These three types of knowledges are about the First Noble Truth, dukkha sacca.
Second Noble Truth in Three Rounds
5. Section 5 describes three knowledges for Second Noble Truth, the causes for suffering (dukkha samudhaya). By the way, the Four Noble Truths are succinctly stated in Section 3.
- That the root cause for suffering was “tanhā” or attachments was grasped at the first round of the tiparivattaya; verse 5(i): Idam dukkhasamudayan ariyasaccan’ti me. This is the knowledge a Sōtapanna acquires simultaneously with round 1 for dukkha sacca. See, “Tanha – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance” for a discussion on tanhā.
- In the second round, a deeper level of the root causes is realized by “seeing with less biases for sense cravings” or “pirisindha” (“piri” or liking + “sindha” or removed in Sinhala): “pahātabban’ti“, where “paha” means “to remove”. For a normal human, this knowledge comes in two stages of Sakadāgāmi and Anāgāmi; verse 5(ii).
- In the third round, when a normal human attains the Arahant stage, one realizes without any doubt that any type of tanhā is a cause for suffering: “pahīnan’ti“; verse 5(iii).
- These three types of knowledges are about the Second Noble Truth, dukkha samudhaya sacca.
Third Noble Truth in Three Rounds
6. Section 6 describes the three knowledges for Third Noble Truth, stopping causes for suffering (dukkha nirōdhaya).
- That the causes for suffering need to be removed was grasped at the first round of the tiparivattaya; Idaṃ dukkhanirodhan ariyasaccan’ti me. As stated in section 3: “..Yo tassā yeva taṇhāya asesa-virāga-nirodho, chāgo, paṭinissaggō, mutti, anālayō..”.This was discussed in the previous post, “Majjima Patipada – Way to Relinquish Attachments to this World“. At the first round (i.e., Sōtapanna stage), this is grasped at a preliminary level; verse 6(i).
- In the second round, this is seen gradually at deeper levels, i.e., “seeing with less biases for sense cravings” or “pirisindha” (“piri” or liking + “sindha” or removed in Sinhala): “sacchikātabban’ti“. For a normal human, this knowledge comes in two stages of Sakadāgāmi and Anāgāmi, when one actually starts seeing the perils of kāma raga; verse 6(ii).
- In the third round, one realizes without any doubt that any type of tanhā must be removed: “sacchikatan’ti“; verse 6(iii).
Fourth Noble Truth in Three Rounds
7. The way to accomplish this nirōdhaya is grasped at the final three rounds, as stated in section 7.
- The Noble Eightfold Path is first grasped at the first round. For a normal human, this knowledge is gained when attaining the Sōtapanna stage: Idaṃ dukkha nirodhagāmini paṭipadā ariyasaccan’ti me. One “sees” the Path through the “Dhamma eye”: verse 7(i). An enormous amount of defilements are removed just with this “clear vision”.
- Then in the second round, it is realized that one must cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path (bhavana) to remove the root causes (verse 7(ii)): bhāvetabban’ti.
- In the third round, it is realized that one has completed that task, and there is nothing else to be done (verse 7(iii)): bhāvitan’ti.
- However, as I mentioned above, all 12 types of knowledge arose in the Buddha simultaneously, upon attaining the Buddhahood.
Declaring the Attainment of the Buddhahood
8. In section 8, the Buddha says: “I had NOT previously declared the Buddhahood since I had not attained all types of knowledge..”. Here, “na suvisuddhaṃ ahōsi” means “had not accomplished it completely”.
- In the next phrase the Buddha declares that he has now done that (suvisuddhan ahōsi), and that he is declaring to the “.. world of humans, devas, brahmas,..” that he has attained the Buddhahood.
- In the next phrase, he declares: “the vision arose in me (dassanan udapādi) , unmovable calm mindset arose in me (akuppā me chetovimutti), this is my last birth (ayaṃantimā jāti), and there will be no more bhava for me (natthi’ dāni punabbhavō)“.
- Lastly: “Ida ma vo ca Bhagavā”: “Thus declared the Buddha“.
- Now the next few pages of the sutta consist of general statements.
The Last Long Section
9. In section 9, it is stated that one of the five ascetics, Kondanna, attained the Sōtapanna stage at the conclusion of the desana. This section was discussed in the previous post, “Majjima Patipada – Way to Relinquish Attachments to this World“.
- Then those devas and brahmas who attended the desana are described in a repetitive manner; see, “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta – Introduction“.
- It is interesting to note that many of the 31 realms are mentioned here. Large numbers of devas and brahmas from most of those realms were present to hear the first discourse. I have marked in blue those different realms.
Path to Be Followed Sequentially
10. The important thing to understand is that one needs to go through these stages sequentially (only a Buddha goes through them at once). Some people try to get rid “the perception of a self” even before the Sōtapanna stage. A “self” is going to be there until any kind of “gathi” are still there. When “apāya gathi” are removed at the Sōtapanna stage, one overcomes the first stage. “Kāma gathi” are reduced at the Sakadāgāmi stage, and removed at the Anāgāmi stage in overcoming the second round of bondage.
- The two samyōjanā of māna (the perception that “I need to be treated well because I am superior in some way”) and uddacca (the tendency to get at least irritated when not treated as expected) go away only at the Arahant stage together with the other three samyōjanā of rūpa raga, arūpa raga, and avijjā.
- But it is to be noted that the levels of māna, uddacca, avijjā that an Anāgāmi has, are at much reduced level. They are gradually decreased through various stages of Nibbāna and are eliminated at the Arahant stage.
- Thus the critical step is to understand the nature of the wider world of 31 realms and get through the first round of bondage (and be released from rebirths in the apāyās) where the dangers are the highest. The only way to do that is to learn and contemplate the true and pure Dhamma. Relinquishing sense pleasures comes naturally after that. trying to give up sense pleasures forcefully before the Sōtapanna stage will only lead to frustration.
11. A normal human, no matter how intelligent, cannot grasp the dangers of existence in the wider world of 31 realms because of various forms of wrong views or micchā ditthi. A Buddha discovers the existence of those realms and the unbearable suffering encountered (especially in the apāyās).
- Until one gets rid of the those wrong views and attain the Sōtapanna stage, it is impossible to “clearly see” the dangers of sense cravings.
Suttas Should Not Be Translated Word-by-Word
12. Now we can also see why a sutta cannot be translated word by word. Only the key ideas are listed in a sutta, which need to be described in detail to grasp the content. This sutta was delivered overnight, but is summarized in a few pages.
- The Buddha must have described what we discussed here plus much more during the several hours of delivery of the sutta. In the next post, we will try to discuss some details making connection to concepts that we have already discussed in other sections.
- As we have seen, the same holds for other suttas and for Paticca Samuppāda. Just listing the eleven steps in Paticca Samuppāda will have no benefit. The steps in Paticca Samuppāda must be detailed according to each individual Paticca Samuppāda cycle of relevance (akusala-mūla, kusala-mūla, etc) even though the steps are recited almost the same way.