Revised April 26, 2020
1. It is good to 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 Nibbāna or “niveema” or “cooling down”, and is also called the “nirāmisa 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 Sōtapanna stage; see, for example, “What is the only Akusala Removed by a Sōtapanna?“. Here would like to discuss how this “nirāmisa sukha” arises when one reads (or listens) to the true Dhamma, and how that can take one all the way to the Sōtapanna 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, the “Search” box on the top right is very good for finding relevant posts on keywords.
- If you have questions or comments, it is best to make a comment at the discussion forum: “Forums.”
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 kāmacchanda (strong greed) and vyāpada (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 of 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 “pīti“) cētasika making one joyful, which in turn makes the body “light”, causes physical calmness, and lead to samādhi: “pīti manassa kāyō passadati, passadi kāyō sukhantiyati, sukhinō samādhiyati“.
- We will discuss this at a deeper level, in Abhidhamma, where we will discuss how various “mind made rūpa” like lahuta (lightness), Muduta (Elasticity), and Kammannata (weildiness) can make one’s body “light” or “heavy” depending on the mental status; see, “Rūpa (Material Form) – Table“. For example, they are related to the cētasika like kāyapassaddhi (tranquility of mental body); cittapassaddhi (tranquility of consciousness); see, #6 of “Cētasika (Mental Factors)“.
- And this samādhi is attained via the suppression of ALL FIVE hindrances; it is commonly called “Samatha“. One does not need to do a special “Samatha Bhāvanā” (like the breath meditation) to calm the mind. If one pays enough attention and gets absorbed in the subject matter while listening to a dēsana or reading Dhamma, one could even attain the Sōtapanna stage.
4. This is the samādhi (or feeling of well-being) one feels when reading (or listening) to true Dhamma. It is also called the early stages of “nirāmisa sukha“; see the chart, “Nirāmisa Sukha – In a Chart“. It can be printed for reference while reading this post.
- “nirāmisa 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 nirāmisa sukha can be experienced only when one starts seeing a glimpse of the “true nature of this world” and becomes a “Sōtapanna Anugāmi“, i.e., one on the way to become a Sōtapanna. 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 Sōtapanna.
- When one strives and comprehends the key message of the Buddha that seeking lasting happiness cannot be realized by staying in this beginning-less rebirth process, one attains the Sōtapanna stage. Then one can “see” the path to Nibbāna and proceed on one’s own. One has removed an “Earth-equivalent of defilements” through Sammā Diṭṭhi; this is called “dassanena pahathabba“, i.e., “removing defilements via true vision or wisdom”; see, “What is the Only Akusala Removed by a Sōtapanna?“.
- Higher stages of Nibbāna normally need formal meditation techniques. The most comprehensive is given in the Maha Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. However, the early parts of the Maha Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, especially the kāyanupassanā section, is geared towards help attaining the Sōtapanna 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 Sōtapanna 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 one of them (niyata micchā diṭṭhi) has now been permanently REMOVED; see, “Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)“.
- Thus the moral behavior (“sīla” or “seela“) of a Sōtapanna comes from within, and it is called the “Ariyakānta Seela“. It is unshakeable and remains in future lives.
- Just like someone who has really learned algebra instinctively knows how to solve a previously-unsolved algebra problem, a Sōtapanna instinctively avoids doing dasa akusala of “apāyagāmi strength”, i.e., those actions that lead to birth in the apāyā. (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 un-encountered problems).
- Once one sees a glimpse of Sammā Diṭṭhi, one can cultivate it further; also the other seven components of the Noble Eightfold Path (Sammā Saṅkappa, Sammā Vāca, etc) automatically follow.
6. During the time of the Buddha, many people attained the Sōtapanna stage during the first discourse they listened to. Attaining higher stages of Nibbāna could take more formal meditation by cultivating the basics that one has just grasped.
- Visaka attained the Sōtapanna stage at 7 years of age, and could not attain any higher stages until death. King Bimbisāra also died as a Sōtapanna. Yet they are guaranteed to attain full Nibbāna within 7 bhava.
- Upatissa and Kolita attained the Sōtapanna 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 Nibbāna above the Sōtapanna stage. Of course, there are exceptions, like Bahiya Daruchiriya, who attained the Arahantship straightaway while listening to a verse uttered by the Buddha.
7. Whenever one becomes 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 (tina 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 samādhi WILL keep all those hindrances down, especially the tina middha. This is the real test of one’s ability to get to samādhi. If the state of samādhi 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.
8. 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, Paṭicca samuppāda, 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 a 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 reading at a later time because what is learned in the meantime 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.
9. Even though it may not seem to be a “big deal”, understanding anicca (or cultivating the anicca saññā) 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, 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 Nibbāna much more quickly than I did.
Next, “How to Taste Nibbāna“,…