12. Path to Once Returner & Non Returner
Dated: Year 1994
Venerable Bhikkus, Brothers and Sisters, the next subject in Vipassana is to deal with the balance 2 fetters, that is attachment and aversion. In regard to your analyzing body and mind, the activity clearly and also how all activities are done by cause and effect and you finally practice arising and passing away. Once you have completed these 3 exercises, if you have done it correctly, if you have understood the moment very carefully as not done by anybody but as something that occurs with the mind and the body working together. There is no being as such within you who perform these acts but you automatically perform them with the mind directing the body.
If you have developed your knowledge sufficiently, you must be able to achieve the first stage of development and that is Stream Entry. Once that exercise is over, when watching the rising and passing away carefully, there should be a rise of your concentration vertically upwards. It rises with the realisation of the impermanence of things and along with the fruition Samadhi must take place. Fruition Samadhi realising the impermanence in the first instance, the first stage of your development, it’s not fully realised but realised to achieve the fruition of the first development of Stream Entry. Impermanence, you finally realise it fully, completely, at this of your development of Arahatship on yourself, giving up of all, nothing left over, your work is over, all the effort have now crowned with success, that’s the last stage of your final realisation and in full realisation of the Impermanence.
Therefore the first instance in the Stream Entry, when you are analysing the arising and passing away, there is an upward vertical development of the mind, so to say the mind is transcend to a higher state. And when it reaches that maturity, then the truth dawns to you. I need not describe how it happens. But when it happens, you will be convinced that you have realised the truth. That you have enter the Stream, no doubt is created in your mind, because the fruition samadhi which reaches that stage of development convinced you that you have reached that height of development, which is Stream Entry.
Now, we go beyond that. As I told you have now given up those fetters, fetters of doubt is no longer there in you. The realisation of mind and matter and their function clearly has cleared your mind of believing that there is a being in you, this is cause and effect and nothing else, and also these things happening clearly convinces you that Dhamma is a very very practical and a subject one would realise through experience of going through these development stages. Then now no doubt about Dhamma. If at all you are used to some other habits in the nature of cults which you have adopted, individuals that that is Buddhism, that is the practise of Buddhism, you will give up all that and then now clearly go along the path for your development.
Now the next stage that occurs is getting rid of attachment and aversion. I clearly indicated to you attachment and aversion are the 2 extremes a worldling always falls into, and it is these 2 things that promote the desire. Attachment and aversion. I also emphasize that in performing the activities of the sense bases, you create a thought. And it is that thought that enables you to experience an object through a sense base. And that is a spontaneous activity of the mind that occurs suddenly. You hear a noise and the impact is felt by the ear drum and a thought arises there and you immediately, the spur of the moment that all these occurs, and thought arises and you are listening to the sound, to the noise. In the same way, any sense objects contacts the sense base, natural incidents that occurs is thought is created and it is this thought that enables you to experience that sense object. In creating that thought, the consciousness put into practice, so to say the 5 mental factors. The 5 mental factors are: contact is one, next is feeling, third is perception, fourth is volition and the fifth is attention. These are the 5 mental factors. It is in connection with each of these sense bases that a thought is created. There are 6 places therefore thoughts are created. In every such creation, the consciousness puts into practice the 5 mental factors, contact, feeling, perception, volition and attention. For the contact, there are contrivances in the sense bases which has the capacity to attract the relevant object that attracts that sense base. For instance, your eye is equipped with the retina. Any object coming before the eye, it reflects in the retina. You have in the ear the eardrum. When noise is heard, the drum begin to vibrate. That’s the contact. Your nose has an equipment in the middle of the nose, in the shape of a hoof of a goat that has the capacity to attract smell. Your tongue has in the center of the tongue a very sensitive area and the food that you eat must contact the sensitive area for you to feel a taste. Very often, if you apply the end of the tongue, tip of the tongue, contact the food and you find that you don’t have a taste, and you quietly by effort bring it to the middle of the tongue and it is there that you actually feel a taste. That’s the sensitive area where a taste is felt by you. In the body, except the finger nails and the hair, every part of the body has sensitiveness. Any contact with any part of the body, you feel it. Mind of course is used, mental objects. And the contact is, the contact with these contrivances that are in each of these sense bases to catch an object, physical object from outside. And when that occurs, that is what contacts us. When that occurs, then the mental factor feeling comes into play. Mental factor feeling gives you an idea whether the object that has attracted the sense base, either the ear or the eye or the nose or the tongue or the body or the mind or thinking, whether that object is to your liking or not to your liking, that’s all. Feelings gives you the idea whether that object is to your liking or not to your liking. Then we have mental factor perception which enables you to identify that object. If you don’t know then, you will ask a question what is it that I observe there. I get a peculiar smell, I can’t identify. What is this peculiar smell I get, some sorts of doubts you create. If you do not know exactly the identity of that object that has attracted your sense base.
Therefore, volition commits the act of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, contacting and thinking. Volition, Cetanā. These 5 mental factors are produced by consciousness. It is after consciousness has arrived at the scene, at your sense base in the first instance with the contact, then of course it is this consciousness that immediately produces the 5 mental factors and create the thought. All these should be done within a split second. There is an object and you see. You see as a result of a thought created in you and it is done in a split second. You also smell something, immediately a thought is created for you to smell. Likewise, physical objects in contact with the bases, it is the thought that’s created to enable you to identify them and make use of the sense base to know what you have done or what you have experienced. And such that thought, that first thought is a spontaneous activity of the mind, suddenly at this. Therefore there is no time for that thought to do anything except to create the thought. And when you create the thought, you see, you smell, you contact, you think, and also such sense base activities are committed, spur of the moment. Then one would ask the question – Buddha clearly stated that, you see it is your pursuit of the pleasant or the unpleasant that creates the desire. When you see something, it may be pleasant or unpleasant. That idea is given to you by the mental factor feeling, but you have not experienced anything as yet whether it is pleasant experience or unpleasant experience, just an idea is there planted in you by the mental factor feeling. At the spur of moment, you contact something through your sense bases. That it is this feeling that you pursue. How do you pursue the feeling? Create thoughts. You create a thought to enjoy the pleasant, not only one thought, you create many thoughts and enjoy what is pleasant. In regard to experiences through the 6 sense bases, bear in mind, brothers and sisters, that you always expect something pleasant, not something unpleasant. So when you expect something pleasant and if that does not occur and you experience something unpleasant, then you create an aversion, dislike for that object. Therefore, 1 of 2 things occurs always in your mind in respect of any object attracting the sense bases. Either you through this mental factor feeling you create an attachment and enjoy that object by creating more thoughts. You expect something pleasant always to your satisfaction and when you observe something or experience something unpleasant, then it makes you to create thoughts of aversion at that experience you have gone through.
Those are the 2 extremes that your mind will always fall into when you see something, when you smell something, when you hear something, when your tongue contacts a taste, body contacts something outside and your mind creating a thought. These are the 2 extremes. And it is these 2 extremes, one of these either a pleasant thing that you have enjoyed that creates the attachment, if it is unpleasant that you have pursue to create a disgust about the disappointment then it is that that creates the aversion. Therefore the 2 opposites are attachment and aversion. Attachment about something pleasant, aversion about something unpleasant. These are the 2 things that occur in your mind. These 2 things never occur together, if the object is pleasant, it is pleasant; if the object is unpleasant, it is unpleasant. Therefore, 1 of these things will always happen after every thought you create in your mind. And I emphasize the fact that thoughts are created at these 6 places, thoughts are created connected with the eye, thoughts are created connected with the ear, thoughts are created connected with the nose, thoughts are created connected with your tongue about taste, thoughts are created connected with your body about contact and thoughts are created connected with the creation of a thought. In all these 6 instances, either that thought that is created to enable you to experience the sense base activity makes you to pursue that thought further, if it is something pleasant to create more thoughts and enjoy it, if it is something unpleasant, create more thoughts and create an aversion to it. And this aversion and attachment are the 2 things that promote desire. Now you clearly know that it is desire which you have in you is not the quality of the mind. It is something which you have created in the mind as a result of your pursuing what is pleasant and enjoying it by creation of thoughts, pursuing what is unpleasant by creation of thoughts of unpleasantness. It is this activity which is subsequently done by you after you experience a sense base activity or sense object that creates aversion or attachment. And it is this aversion and this attachment that lead to the development of desire in you. Therefore, it is clear now, you have the activity of the sense base in the way of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, contacting and thinking. That’s the direct occurrence in connection with your sense bases as a result of the creation of a thought. If you do not wish to go further, you can cut short the further activity by not thinking about the object. And that is what you should get use to do, instead of pursuing something pleasant and pursuing something unpleasant which ultimately leads you to the creation of desire. What you should get used to it, that is all unnecessary. That activities is absolutely not necessary. You are gifted with that mind to enable you to perform the task of seeing, perform the task of hearing, perform the task of smelling, perform the task of tasting, perform the task of contacting and thinking, that’s all. So a thought enables you to perform that act. Subsequently after you have experience perform that act of seeing, hearing, smelling, contacting and thinking, what you do is you create more thoughts. Unnecessary thoughts and pursue what is pleasant, enjoy it and create an attachment to it. Pursue what is unpleasant because that is what you did not expect. Therefore you create certain amount of dislike towards it and then create thoughts about that dislike. So you automatically without any purpose at all, fell into 2 extremes in every thought you created to enable you to see, after seeing, you fell into one of these 2 extremes. After hearing again you create a thought and fell into one of these extremes. After contacting again you create a thought and fell into one of these extremes in respect of the 6 sense base activities. This subsequent creation of thoughts of attachment to aversion in regard to the experience you went through, by the creation of that spontaneous thought, you created further thoughts and ultimately fell into trouble. Because aversion or attachment promoted the desire. Promoted the desire. Therefore, you are now subjected to desire. And what is your position now. You have created such a forceful habit in you to pursue every experience you gain through the 6 sense bases and after experience the sense base object which has attracted that sense base, you have done something unnecessary in the way of pursuing unnecessary thoughts and creating desire and attachment. As a habit you do it now. You do not purposely do it now, it automatically occurs in your mind because you have been doing this for the last so many many births. It is something automatic now in your mind, and this so call desire is maintained by you now as a habit, a powerful habit. Desire is a cause of all your suffering because desire creates a birth for you after your death. Existence in this world is suffering. After your death, if you have no more birth, then you have finished your task. But because of desire which you have created in your mind, this desire promotes birth and you suffer as a result. Buddha says, get rid of desire. And if you get rid of desire, there will not be any births. As a result, you gain your final liberation. Who created this desire? We created the desire. As a result of our foolish activity in the way of pursuing experiences gain by the sense bases creating more thoughts either of attachment or aversion. Cause of suffering is desire. Cessation of suffering is getting rid of desire.
Now, in regard to the 4th and the 5th aggregates which belong to the lower group of 5 aggregates, you have to deal with next after you have gained your Stream Entry. And this activity of creating attachment to aversion is done by the mind. Therefore you have to be very watchful, and also we must find out a way to get rid of this. Buddha in the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness preach to us to overcome desire. He said that thoughts of attachment or thoughts of aversion promote desire. These are very strong defilements in you which creates births after births. Develop your mind in the right way and get rid of half the effect of aversion and attachment, which is strongly maintained by your mind. You will gain the 2nd stage of Once Returner. When you gain that stage of development, you will only come back to this worldly way of life once only. After that you gain your liberation and disappear. On the other hand, if you get rid of the balance left over of such defilements, you gain 3rd stage of Non Returner. There after your death you have finished now all connection with the worldly life and after your death you automatically get a birth in that Pure Abodes, there are 5 Pure Abodes. And in that Pure Abode you get a birth and you automatically gain your liberation there. So this 2nd development and the 3rd development are vital for us, and they directly deal with desire. Also we know that, it is completely a development of the mind that can get rid of these desires because these desires are mentally created. Attachment is a mental creation, hatred all these likes are mental creation. They are mental creation, mind created.
Now let us examine how Buddha has given us advice the manner one would get rid of these desire. In the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness, first foundation of mindfulness is to be careful about your body and that of another. Create that attachment of the mind to the body, get rid of that attachment. Overcome that attachment, attachment of the mind towards the body in analysing the body as a heap of impurities, analysing the body as the 4 elements, further analyse the body as of a dead person as something that get decomposed by stages and ultimately the last stage. Nobody can be observed there, everything has been decomposed. So there are various subjects of meditation in regard to the body, 14 in number. Then what is the meditation he asks us to perform in regard to getting rid of desire? For the purification of the mind in regard to attachment and aversion which creates desire, he stated that the mind performs 2 activities. What are the 2 activities that your mind perform? It can think and create thoughts, it also can feel. That is all it can do, 2 things the mind can do for us, create thoughts or create feelings. Now, how do you create feelings? You create feelings of attachment or aversion as a result of seeing something, hearing something. What you heard become the subject of an attachment or aversion. And these feelings he considered as good feelings and bad feelings in us. Bad feelings are those feelings that created a dislike in you. Good feelings are feelings that creates a liking in you, attachment in you. Your eye, your ear, your nose, your tongue, your body, your mind, these are the places where such feelings are created. You see something, if it is to your liking, then you create a good feeling. If it is something not to your liking, you create a bad feeling.
And what is the advice Buddha give you in regard to the creation of such feeling about things that you experience through your sense bases?
Seeing something good or bad
Hearing something good or bad
Smelling something good or bad
Tasting something good or bad
Contacting something good or bad
Thinking of something good or bad, what are you expected to do?
Buddha says, when you experience a thing like that, with effort and with intelligent understanding of the object and with mindfulness, don’t allow the mind to either create an attachment or aversion to it. That is the advice he gives. That is you see something, some object, after you see the object, I told you, that you create thoughts of attachment and aversion, that subsequent activity after you see the object. But Buddha says is, don’t create such attachment or aversion. How? With effort, with intelligent understanding of the object and with mindfulness prevents such occurrence. Of course, he goes further and in that instance, mindfulness should be mindfulness of the realistic aspect of the object, that it is impermanent. You see something, next moment the thought that arises maybe one of attachment or aversion to the object. But you immediately create a thought enable you to realistically analyse that object as something impermanent. Impermanent, Unsatisfactory and Soulless. So if you consider an object which you have seen in that manner essentially, would you create an attachment to that object? An impermanent object? Also would you create an aversion to that object, an impermanent object? And that is the mindfulness that Buddha refers to. You must be always mindful to protect your eye producing something of an attachment or something of an aversion resulting from the experience in seeing something. Seeing is done by the spontaneous activity of the mind by creating a thought. It is subsequent creation of thoughts of attachment to aversion that lead to the creation of desire. So to prevent that, you are to make a good effort, be mindful always, mindful of the impermanence of all these objects, and also intelligently understand the situation and do not permit the mind to fall into one of 2 extremes of aversion or attachment. That’s the advice he gave. Now, how would you put into practice this advice? You must be always mindful. Always mindful. Mindful of what? Mindful of the impermanence, mindful of the emptiness of the object, mindfulness of the non-continuity or soullessness of the object. If you essentially analyse each object that attracts the sense bases in that manner, you will never create an attachment or aversion to that object. What happens to us is, we see something and we get attracted to that, we forget about the impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and soullessness and directly get attracted to that object. Thereby you create a desire, attachment or it is something which you did not like, you create a hatred towards it, by creation of thoughts and then you create an aversion to it. Attachment or aversion, one of these 2 things which promote desire and without your knowledge. When you see something, you know that object is impermanent. Treat that as impermanent, then there would not arise an occasion for you to either create an attachment or aversion to that object, you dispel it. You hear something, that’s impermanent. You will never get a chance of creating attachment or aversion to that object, you dispel it. You smell something, that’s also impermanent. Sensual, you feel it, it’s impermanent and that’s true and you leave it like that.
In regard to all the 6 sense bases, in regard to all objects that they attract, if you have the proper mindfulness to realistically treat every such experience you gained through as something impermanent, something unsatisfactory and something without continuity, then you would not get attracted to that object or you will not create a hatred towards that object. Something impermanent. That is the clue, that is the secret revealed to you by Buddha how to safeguard your mind from falling into the 2 extremes, one of either attachment or aversion. Both promote desire. If you check yourself by not allowing your mind to create an attachment or aversion to any experience gain through the 6 sense bases, then what you do is you starve desire. And the desire will finally fade away from your mind. Now this desire is a strong habit in you, you feed the habit by either falling into one of 2 extremes of creating aversion or attachment and the desire becomes stronger and stronger because it has been fed constantly by you. But on the other hand, if you are very very watchful, your mindfulness does not permit you to do that. As you see the object, may be very attractive from outside, but you know that that object is something impermanent, something unsatisfactory, something without a soul, therefore there is nothing attractive in that, you just leave it as that. With something which you do not like, you treat that object too in the same manner, therefore you won’t create thoughts of attachment to aversion. Any bad habit which you have created in your mind, the bad habit remains and continues to act in you so long as you maintained that bad habit, so long as you feed the bad habit. Feeding means promoting the bad habits always by creating thoughts to help to maintain the bad habit. On the other hand, if you are very watchful, mindful not feeding these bad habits by other thoughts, then what happens is bad habits fade away from your mind. And that is the approach Buddha made in order to get rid of desire. I give you an example, worldly example, there is a man who has been drinking for the last 50 years. He is in the habit of taking liquor in the morning, liquor in the afternoon, liquor in the evening. He cannot be without liquor. After about 50 years of drinking maintained in that habit, he ultimately realised that he had been a subject of misery to several in that family. He has destroyed that family entirely as a result of this bad habit of drinking. So ultimately decides I have been a cause of this misery to my dependents, I am not going to take any liquor from tomorrow. Which comes to a quest that I have to die as a result of not taking liquor, I face that. And from tomorrow onwards, this man, he would not touch liquor. Strong urges are there in the mind, take liquor, take liquor. Just the time for you. Your body pains all that will disappear, a lot of encouragement lie that given from inside but no, I shall not touch liquor. And he continues that good habit. 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 5 weeks, 6 weeks, 7 weeks, is not so strong as it was, now he can be without liquor. Then after about 2,3 months, he find that he is a good man, a virtuous man. Accepted by everybody as a person who has given up his habit of taking liquor. Aren’t you trying the same thing with regards to your desire that is created in your mind. You promoted the desire by permitting your mind to create thoughts of attachment to aversions. If you do not promote desire by creating such thoughts, then you starve the desire. Whatever the desire, the desire will disappear. No more desire in you. Everyday, you find the desire disappearing little by little, little by little, ultimately after sometime, no more desire in you. Why? You have not fed the desire, maintain the desire, by being mindful, mindful of what? Mindful of what you experience through your sense bases. As what? As Impermanent, Unsatisfactory and Soullessness.
What a clear approach Buddha has made. Then in regards to thoughts, I told you that your consciousness can do 2 things, either make you to think or make you to experience feeling. Now in regards to feelings, I give you an explanation as to how you can prevent feelings overtaking you and creating attachment to aversion. In regard to thought, Buddha said when a thought arises, thought of attachment, thought of aversion, when such thought arises your mind, more leading to thoughts of aversion and that, I shall not allow these to happen. What is the object that has created this thought? Let us say form of a human being, that form may look attractive is not attractive, is something which has all impurities, I know what it can taste. There is nothing attractive in that. You prompt the mind of its true nature and that’s something impermanent, something unsatisfactory, something which does not continue. Therefore, why should I get attracted. Likewise, such thought when they arise, you promptly take action to dispel those thoughts. Dispel them. Therefore, your mind will be free of feelings and mind will be free of thoughts. That is the manner Buddha has taught you in the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness to get rid of desire created by the mind in regards to feelings and thoughts.
What we do is the same thing, we say after you gain your Stream Entry, be watchful, don’t allow these thoughts to occur. You can’t prevent thoughts that help you to see, hear, smell, taste, think, these 6 sense base activity, they prompt you without any information to you, spontaneous activity of the mind, but you do not hang on them. You see, that’s all. You heard, that’s all. You smelt, that’s all. You do not pursue them further and create an attachment to aversion. That’s in regard to feelings, and if there be any thought arising, you are very watchful about the mind, you begin to now watch the mind. In your ordinary way, not in Samadhi, and a thought arises about something, you say that it is impermanent, push it away. Again another thought arises, that too is impermanent. Likewise, if you go on watching your mind carefully, and dispel all thoughts that occurs in your mind as impermanent, then what happens? Your consciousness begin to quietly withdraw. It is purposes producing thoughts because you can’t make these thoughts to take any positive action in this man’s mind, he dispels them as of no use. He does not appreciate these thoughts, it is when you appreciate the thought when you enjoy something out of the thought, that more and more thoughts are created. But here is the person who is watching for such thoughts and dispelling them as impermanent, impermanent. No, impermanent, impermanent. And what happens? Less and less thoughts are produced by the consciousness and you reach a stage, brothers and sisters, that your mind is peaceful and calm, no thoughts. Absolutely peaceful, what has happened to this so call desire in you? Desire has been made to starve now, no food is given for its existence by the creation of thoughts of aversion or attachment, and the power of desire vanishes, little by little, it is effective less and less and less and less, like the drunkard, who after 50 years of maintaining a habit, very strong habit, by giving up liquor and maintaining that condition for about 3,4 months, he manages to get rid of that habit of taking liquor. In the same way, this habit of maintaining this desire by you in every thought that occurs in you, now you have given up that, and you have dispelled every thought that has occurred and as a result of it there is no feeding done to desire. Desire and effect of desire is less and less and less and ultimately that’s all disappears. No desire in you. How is your mind, very peaceful and calm? By getting rid of desire, what have you done? You have got rid of attachment and aversion. Those are the 2 defilements, aggregates, though I should not say aggregates but fetters that bound you to this earth. Now this activity on your part by starving desire enable you to give up these 2 fetters of attachment and aversion. And you after getting rid of half of the thoughts that promote desire, you enter the Once Returner stage. Again, the development mind in impermanence. You reach the height of realisation, and the fruition Samadhi enables you to realise that stage.
You go on stopping further thoughts and making the mind as peaceful as possible, without any thoughts occurring, then you will enter the 3rd stage of Non Returner and in that condition you have completely dispel of all unnecessary thoughts that you have been creating of attachment to aversion. Your mind is peaceful, absolutely peaceful mind. You can maintain that mind for hours and hours in peace, complete peace, no thoughts occur. And it is these thoughts that promote the aversion or attachment that supported the desire. Then what happens as a result of your mind been maintained a peaceful manner without any thoughts. What happened to your desire? Your desire disappear. That is the cessation of desire.
Still there are leftover, brothers and sisters, which I will discuss tomorrow. That is getting rid of your false views, I, my and soul. Those things have to be got rid off for you to finally liberate yourself. But getting rid of desire you have liberated. At least the stage of getting being born in the Pure Abode where you finally liberate yourself from there and never come back. It is as good as I should say attaining Nibbana by entering 3rd stage. Therefore Brothers and Sisters, this is a very very practical path taught by Buddha. It is not something imaginary. And when you silentfully analyse the advice he has given us, to get rid of this desire, one and only defilement which he expects us to get rid of to gain our salvation, our liberty of freedom, you will see that it is something very practical. And something which you can do without much difficulties with determination and mindfulness.
May you all attain Nibbana.