The Wings to Awakening

by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Part III: The Basic Factors

H. Discernment: Right View
iv. The Fourth Truth


§ 239. Before my Awakening, when I was just an unawakened Bodhisatta, the realization came to me: 'How this world has fallen on difficulty! It is born, it ages, it dies, it falls away & rearises, but it does not discern the escape from this stress, from this aging & death. O when will it discern the escape from this stress, from this aging & death?'

Then the thought occurred to me, 'Aging & death exist when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there aging & death?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Aging & death exist when birth exists. From birth as a requisite condition comes aging & death.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Birth exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition comes birth?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Birth exists when becoming exists. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth...'Name-&-form exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there name-&-form?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Name-&-form exists when consciousness exists. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Consciousness exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition comes consciousness?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Consciousness exists when name-&-form exists. From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.'

Then the thought occurred to me, 'This consciousness turns back at name-&-form, and goes no farther. It is to this extent that there is birth, aging, death, falling away, & re-arising, i.e., from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media... Thus is the origination of this entire mass of stress. Origination, origination.' Vision arose, clear knowing arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before.

Then the thought occurred to me, 'Aging & death don't exist when what doesn't exist? From the cessation of what comes the cessation of aging & death?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Aging & death don't exist when birth doesn't exist. From the cessation of birth comes the cessation of aging & death.'...'Name-&-form doesn't exist when what doesn't exist? From the cessation of what comes the cessation of name-&-form?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Name-&-form doesn't exist when consciousness doesn't exist. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Consciousness doesn't exist when what doesn't exist? From the cessation of what comes the cessation of consciousness?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Consciousness doesn't exist when name-&-form doesn't exist. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness.'

The thought occurred to me, 'I have attained this path to awakening, i.e., from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media... Thus is the cessation of this entire mass of stress. Cessation, cessation.' Vision arose, clear knowing arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before.

It is just as if a man, traveling along a wilderness track, were to see an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by people of former times. He would follow it. Following it, he would see an ancient city, an ancient capital inhabited by people of former times, complete with parks, groves, & ponds, walled, delightful. He would go to address the king or the king's minister, saying, 'Sire, you should know that while traveling along a wilderness track I saw an ancient path...I followed it...I saw an ancient city, an ancient capital...complete with parks, groves, & ponds, walled, delightful. Sire, rebuild that city!' The king or king's minister would rebuild the city, so that at a later date the city would become powerful, rich, & well-populated, fully grown & prosperous.

In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. And what is that ancient path...? Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration... I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of aging & death, direct knowledge of the origination of aging & death, direct knowledge of the cessation of aging & death, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of aging & death. I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of birth...becoming...clinging... craving...feeling...contact...the six sense media...name-&-form... consciousness, direct knowledge of the origination of consciousness, direct knowledge of the cessation of consciousness, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of consciousness. I followed that path.

Following it, I came to direct knowledge of fabrications, direct knowledge of the origination of fabrications, direct knowledge of the cessation of fabrications, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of fabrications. Knowing that directly, I have revealed it to monks, nuns, male lay followers & female lay followers, so that this holy life has become powerful, rich, detailed, well-populated, wide-spread, proclaimed among celestial & human beings.

-- S.XII.65


§ 240. Now at that time Subhadda the Wanderer was staying in Kusinara. He heard, 'Tonight, in the last watch of the night, the total Unbinding of Gotama the contemplative will take place.' Then this thought occurred to him: 'I have heard the elder wanderers, teachers of teachers, saying that only once in a long, long time do Tathagatas -- worthy ones, rightly self-awakened -- appear in the world. Tonight, in the last watch of the night, the total Unbinding of Gotama the contemplative will take place. Now there is a doubt that has arisen in me, but I have faith that he could teach me the Dhamma in such a way that I might abandon that doubt.'

So he went to the Mallan Sal Tree grove and, on arrival, said to Ven. Ananda, 'I have heard the elder wanderers, teachers of teachers, saying that only once in a long, long time do Tathagatas -- worthy ones, rightly self-awakened -- appear in the world. Tonight, in the last watch of the night, the total Unbinding of Gotama the contemplative will take place. Now there is a doubt that has arisen in me, but I have faith that he could teach me the Dhamma in such a way that I might abandon that doubt. It would be good, Ven. Ananda, if you would let me see him.'

When this was said, Ven. Ananda said to him, 'Enough, friend Subhadda. Do not bother the Blessed One. The Blessed One is tired.'

For a second time...For a third time, Subhadda the Wanderer said to Ven. Ananda, '...It would be good, Ven. Ananda, if you would let me see him.'

For a third time, Ven. Ananda said to him, 'Enough, friend Subhadda. Do not bother the Blessed One. The Blessed One is tired.'

Now, the Blessed One heard the exchange between Ven. Ananda & Subhadda the Wanderer, and so he said to Ven. Ananda, 'Enough, Ananda. Do not stand in his way. Let him see the Tathagata. Whatever he asks me will all be for the sake of knowledge, and not to be bothersome. And whatever I answer when asked, he will quickly understand.'

So Ven. Ananda said to Subhadda the Wanderer, 'Go ahead, friend Subhadda. The Blessed One gives you his leave.'

Then Subhadda went to the Blessed One and exchanged courtesies, and after the exchange of courtesies sat down to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, 'Venerable sir, these priests & contemplatives, each with his group, each with his community, each the teacher of his group, an honored leader, well-regarded by people at large -- i.e., Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambalin, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sañjaya Belatthitaputta, & the Nigantha Nataputta: Do they all have direct knowledge as they themselves claim, or do they all not have direct knowledge, or do some of them have direct knowledge and some of them not?'

'Enough, Subhadda. Put this question aside. I will teach you the Dhamma. Listen, and pay close attention. I will speak.'

'Yes, lord,' Subhadda answered, and the Blessed One said, 'In any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is not found, no contemplative of the first...second...third...fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, or Arahant] is found. But in any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is found, contemplatives of the first...second...third...fourth order are found. The noble eightfold path is found in this doctrine & discipline, and right here there are contemplatives of the first...second...third...fourth order. Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of Arahants.

At age twenty-nine I went forth,
    seeking what might be skillful,
and since my going forth
    more than fifty years have past.

Outside of the realm
of methodical Dhamma,
    there is no contemplative.

And no contemplative of the second...third...fourth order. Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of Arahants.'

Then Subhadda the Wanderer said, 'Magnificent, lord, magnificent! In many ways has the Blessed One made the Dhamma clear -- just as if he were to place upright what had been overturned, were to reveal what was hidden, were to show the way to one who was lost, or were to hold up a lamp in the dark so that those with eyes could see forms. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, and to the Dhamma and to the community of monks. Let me obtain the going forth in the Blessed One's presence, let me obtain admission.'

'Anyone, Subhadda, who has previously belonged to another sect and who desires the going forth & admission in this doctrine & discipline, must first undergo probation for four months. If, at the end of four months, the monks feel so moved, they give him the going forth & admit him to the monk's state. But I know distinctions among individuals in this matter.'

'Lord, if that is so, I am willing to undergo probation for four years. If, at the end of four years, the monks feel so moved, let them give me the going forth & admit me to the monk's state.'

Then the Blessed One said to Ven. Ananda, 'Very well then, Ananda, give Subhadda the going forth.'

'Yes, lord,' Ananda answered.

Then Subhadda said to Ven. Ananda, 'It is a gain for you, Ananda, a great gain, that you have been anointed here in the Teacher's presence with the pupil's anointing.'

Then Subhadda the Wanderer received the going forth & the admission in the Blessed One's presence. And not long after his admission -- dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute -- he in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life, for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world.' And thus Ven. Subhadda became another one of the Arahants, the last of the Blessed One's face-to-face disciples.

-- D.16

The Wings to Awakening

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Revised: Sat 17 October 1998
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