The Search for Enlightenment

budandala

13.“Bhikkhus, before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too, being myself subject to birth, sought what was also subject to birth; being myself subject to ageing, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, I sought what was also subject to ageing, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement. Then I considered thus: ‘Why, being myself subject to birth, do I seek what is also subject to birth? Why, being myself subject to ageing, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, do I seek what is also subject to ageing, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement? Suppose that, being myself subject to birth, having understood the danger in what is subject to birth, I seek the unborn supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna. Suppose that, being myself subject to ageing, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, having understood the danger in what is subject to ageing, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, I seek the unageing, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, and undefiled supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna.’

while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta: although the renderings “Bodhisatta” and “Bodhisattva” bear similar traits in that they point to one who “is an awakened being”, the similarities end there. Bodhisatta in our context here indicates how the Buddha refers to himself as a young man on the path to enlightenment; this is working towards enlightenment. Hence, he is developing through different spiritual stages into a Buddha. This is contrasted with a Bodhisattva being an enlightened being who forsakes nirvana for the sake of sentient beings, this all administered through a series of Bodhisattva vows. Interesting how Bodhisatta is more inner-directed and generally Bodhisattva is more outer-directed, concerned for sentitalia as a whole and not exclusively for the sake of one’s own spiritual development. One can ask, then, when does Bodhicitta come into play? The assumed rendering in contemporary Mahayana parlance is that it represents a bodhisattva’s desire for enlightenment solely out of compassion—for the sake of freeing others. Throughout our blog series we have clearly discerned that it far transcends this limited connotation. Bodhicitta is actually entering into the Mindstream of the Tathagatas, yea becoming enlightened with their own perfumed-essence. IT is therefore “Enlightened Consciousness itself”, or as our most recent blog series addressed, entering into vajrasamādhi—the adamantine union with Thusness. Hence, within this series one begins one’s spiritual career as a Bodhisatta, but will eventually culminate in Arhatship.

This passage highlights how Siddhattha Gotama self-realizes his own linkage with all the samsaric elements and hence seeks the unborn supreme security from this bondage.

14.“Later, while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life, though my mother and father wished otherwise and wept with tearful faces, I shaved off my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and went forth from the home life into homelessness.

Scholars emphasize how this is one of the earliest Pali passages in which Siddhattha Gotama sets-off on his own spiritual career.

15.“Having gone forth, bhikkhus, in search of what is wholesome, seeking the supreme state of sublime peace, I went to Āḷāra Kālāma and said to him: ‘Friend Kālāma, I want to lead the holy life in this Dhamma and Discipline.’ Āḷāra Kālāma replied: ‘The venerable one may stay here. This Dhamma is such that a wise man can soon enter upon and abide in it, realising for himself through direct knowledge his own teacher’s doctrine.’ I soon quickly learned that Dhamma. As far as mere lip-reciting and rehearsal of his teaching went, I could speak with knowledge and assurance, and I claimed, ‘I know and see’—and there were others who did likewise.

    “I considered: ‘It is not through mere faith alone that Āḷāra Kālāma declares: “By realising for myself with direct knowledge, I enter upon and abide in this Dhamma.” Certainly Āḷāra Kālāma abides knowing and seeing this Dhamma.’ Then I went to Āḷāra Kālāma and asked him: ‘Friend Kālāma, in what way do you declare that by realising for yourself with direct knowledge you enter upon and abide in this Dhamma?’ In reply he declared the base of nothingness.

I went to Āḷāra Kālāma: the Pali name for one of Siddhatta Gotama’s teachers of meditation. His own system was the “attaining of the “state of nothing whatsoever” (Ākiñcanyāyatana), which the Bodhisatta quickly attained. More on this particular attainment is forthcoming as Gotama soon transcends this limited category of spiritual attainment.

  “I considered: ‘Not only Āḷāra Kālāma has faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. I too have faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Suppose I endeavour to realise the Dhamma that Āḷāra Kālāma declares he enters upon and abides in by realising for himself with direct knowledge?’

    “I soon quickly entered upon and abided in that Dhamma by realising for myself with direct knowledge. Then I went to Āḷāra Kālāma and asked him: ‘Friend Kālāma, is it in this way that you declare that you enter upon and abide in this Dhamma by realising for yourself with direct knowledge?’—‘That is the way, friend.’—‘It is in this way, friend, that I also enter upon and abide in this Dhamma by realising for myself with direct knowledge.’—‘It is a gain for us, friend, it is a great gain for us that we have such a venerable one for our companion in the holy life. So the Dhamma that I declare I enter upon and abide in by realising for myself with direct knowledge is the Dhamma that you enter upon and abide in by realising for yourself with direct knowledge.  And the Dhamma that you enter upon and abide in by realising for yourself with direct knowledge is the Dhamma that I declare I enter upon and abide in by realising for myself with direct knowledge. So you know the Dhamma that I know and I know the Dhamma that you know. As I am, so are you; as you are, so am I. Come, friend, let us now lead this community together.’

    “Thus Āḷāra Kālāma, my teacher, placed me, his pupil, on an equal footing with himself and awarded me the highest honour. But it occurred to me: ‘This Dhamma does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna, but only to reappearance in the base of nothingness.’ Not being satisfied with that Dhamma, disappointed with it, I left.

Siddhatta Gotama soon discerns that Ākiñcanyāyatana is a limited attainment. Essentially, it is one (7th) of the 9 states of meditation absorption. It is best at this junction to break all this down in thorough fashion, being as it will serve as the best point of future reference for these stages. The Sayutta Nikāya (Connected Discourses of the Buddha) breaks them down as follows; incidentally, this is a most fine point of reference concerning the four jhānas themselves:

1 The First Jhāna

On one occasion the Venerable Mahāmoggallāna was dwelling at Sāvatthı̄ in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park.There the Venerable Mahāmoggallāna addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Friends, bhikkhus!” “Friend!” those bhikkhus replied. The Venerable Mahāmoggallāna said this: “Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the first jhāna, the first jhāna.” What now is the first jhāna?’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. This is called the first jhāna.’

“Then, friends, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered and dwelt in the first jhāna…. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by sensuality assailed me. “Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna,

Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the first jhāna. Steady your mind in the first jhāna, unify your mind in the first jhāna, concentrate your mind in the first jhāna.’ Then, friends, on a later occasion, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered and dwelt in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion.

“If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

2 The Second Jhāna

“Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the second jhāna, the second jhāna.” What now is the second Jhāna?’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, with the subsiding of thought and examination, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the second jhāna, which has internal confidence and unification of mind, is without thought and examination, and has rapture and happiness born of concentration. This is called the second jhāna.’

“Then, friends, with the subsiding of thought and examination, I entered and dwelt in the second jhāna….While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by thought and examination assailed me.

“Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the second jhāna. Steady your mind in the second jhāna, unify your mind in the second jhāna, concentrate your mind in the second jhāna.’ Then, on a later occasion, with the subsiding of thought and examination, I entered and dwelt in the second jhāna, which has internal confidence and unification of mind, is without thought and examination, and has rapture and happiness born of concentration.

“If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

3 The Third Jhāna

“Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the third jhāna, the third jhāna.” What now is the third jhāna?’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, with the fading away as well of rapture, a bhikkhu dwells equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, he experiences happiness with the body; he enters and dwells in the third jhāna of which the noble ones declare: “He is equanimous, mindful, one who dwells happily.” This is called the third jhāna.’

“Then, friends, with the fading away as well of rapture … I entered and dwelt in the third jhāna…. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by rapture assailed me.

Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the third jhāna. Steady your mind in the third jhāna, unify your mind in the third jhāna, concentrate your mind in the third jhāna.’ Then, on a later occasion, with the fading away as well of rapture, I dwelt equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, I experienced happiness with the body; I entered and dwelt in the third jhāna of which the noble ones declare: ‘He is equanimous, mindful, one who dwells happily. ’

“If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

4 The Fourth Jhāna

“Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the fourth jhāna, the fourth jhāna.” What now is the fourth jhāna?’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and displeasure, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna, which is neither painful nor pleasant and includes the purification of mindfulness by equanimity. This is called the fourth jhāna.’

“Then, friends, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain … I entered and dwelt in the fourth jhāna…. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by happiness assailed me. “Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the fourth jhāna. Steady your mind in the fourth jhāna, unify your mind in the fourth jhāna, concentrate your mind in the fourth jhāna.’ Then, on a later occasion, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and displeasure, I entered and dwelt in the fourth jhāna, which is neither painful nor pleasant and includes the purification of mindfulness by equanimity.

“If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

5 The Base of the Infinity of Space

“Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the base of the infinity of space, the base of the infinity of space.” What now is the base of the infinity of space?’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, with the complete transcendence of perceptions of forms, with the passing away of perceptions of sensory impingement, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that “space is infinite,” a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the base of the infinity of space. This is called the base of the infinity of space.’

“Then, friends, with the complete transcendence of perceptions of forms … I entered and dwelt in the base of the infinity of space. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by forms assailed me.

“Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the base of the infinity of space. Steady your mind in the base of the infinity of space, unify your mind in the base of the infinity of space, concentrate your mind in the base of the infinity of space.’ Then, on a later occasion, with the complete transcendence of perceptions of forms, with the passing away of perceptions of sensory impingement, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite, ’ I entered and dwelt in the base of the infinity of space.

“If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

6 The Base of the Infinity of Consciousness

“Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the base of the infinity of consciousness, the base of the infinity of consciousness.” What now is the base of the infinity of consciousness?’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, by completely transcending the base of the infinity of space, aware that “consciousness is infinite,” a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the base of the infinity of consciousness. This is called the base of the infinity of consciousness.’ “Then, friends, by completely transcending the base of the infinity of space, aware that ‘consciousness is infinite,’ I entered and dwelt in the base of the infinity of consciousness. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by the base of the infinity of space assailed me.

“Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the base of the infinity of consciousness. Steady your mind in the base of the infinity of consciousness, unify your mind in the base of the infinity of consciousness, concentrate your mind in the base of the infinity of consciousness.’

Then, on a later occasion, by completely transcending the base of the infinity of space, aware that ‘consciousness is infinite,’ I entered and dwelt in the base of the infinity of consciousness.

“If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

7 The Base of Nothingness

“Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the base of nothingness, the base of nothingness.” What now is the base of nothingness?’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, by completely transcending the base of the infinity of consciousness, aware that “there is nothing,” a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the base of nothingness. This is called the base of nothingness.’

“Then, friends, by completely transcending the base of the infinity of consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing,’ I entered and dwelt in the base of nothingness. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by the base of the infinity of consciousness assailed me.

“Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the base of nothingness. Steady your mind in the base of nothingness,  unify your mind in the base of nothingness, concentrate your mind in the base of nothingness.’

Then, on a later occasion, by completely transcending the base of the infinity of consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing,’ I entered and dwelt in the base of nothingness. “If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

16.“Still in search, bhikkhus, of what is wholesome, seeking the supreme state of sublime peace, I went to Uddaka Rāmaputta and said to him: ‘Friend, I want to lead the holy life in this Dhamma and Discipline.’ Uddaka Rāmaputta replied: ‘The venerable one may stay here. This Dhamma is such that a wise man can soon enter upon and abide in it, himself realising through direct knowledge his own teacher’s doctrine.’ I soon quickly learned that Dhamma. As far as mere lip-reciting and rehearsal of his teaching went, I could speak with knowledge and assurance, and I claimed, ‘I know and see’—and there were others who did likewise.

I went to Uddaka Rāmaputta: the second meditation master Siddhatta Gotama encountered on his Noble Quest. “After having studied with Ārāḍa Kālāma and determining that his teachings did not lead to liberation, the Bodhisatta next studied with Udraka Rāmaputra, whose father, Rāma, taught a form of meditation resulting in the state of neither perception nor non-perception. When the bodhisattva attained this state, Udraka Rāmaputra offered him the position of teacher of his disciples.” (Buswell)

 “I considered: ‘It was not through mere faith alone that Rāma declared: “By realising for myself with direct knowledge, I enter upon and abide in this Dhamma.” Certainly Rāma abided knowing and seeing this Dhamma.’ Then I went to Uddaka Rāmaputta and asked him: ‘Friend, in what way did Rāma declare that by realising for himself with direct knowledge he entered upon and abided in this Dhamma?’ In reply Uddaka Rāmaputta declared the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

    “I considered: ‘Not only Rāma had faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. I too have faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Suppose I endeavour to realise the Dhamma that Rāma declared he entered upon and abided in by realising for himself with direct knowledge.’

    “I soon quickly entered upon and abided in that Dhamma by realising for myself with direct knowledge. Then I went to Uddaka Rāmaputta and asked him: ‘Friend, was it in this way that Rāma declared that he entered upon and abided in this Dhamma by realising for himself with direct knowledge?’ ‘That is the way, friend.’—‘It is in this way, friend, that I also enter upon and abide in this Dhamma by realising for myself with direct knowledge.’—‘It is a gain for us, friend, it is a great gain for us that we have such a venerable one for our companion in the holy life. So the Dhamma that Rāma declared he entered upon and abided in by realising for himself with direct knowledge is the Dhamma that you enter upon and abide in by realising for yourself with direct knowledge. And the Dhamma that you enter upon and abide in by realising for yourself with direct knowledge is the Dhamma that Rāma declared he entered upon and abided in by realising for himself with direct knowledge. So you know the Dhamma that Rāma knew and Rāma knew the Dhamma that you know. As Rāma was, so are you; as you are, so was Rāma. Come, friend, now lead this community.’

    “Thus Uddaka Rāmaputta, my companion in the holy life, placed me in the position of a teacher and accorded me the highest honour. But it occurred to me: ‘This Dhamma does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna, but only to reappearance in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.’ Not being satisfied with that Dhamma, disappointed with it, I left.

8 The Base of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-perception

“Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception, the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception.” What now is the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception? ’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, by completely transcending the base of nothingness, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception. This is called the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception.’

“Then, friends, by completely transcending the base of nothingness, I entered and dwelt in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by the base of nothingness assailed me.

“Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. Steady your mind in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, unify your mind in the base of neither-perception- nor-non-perception, concentrate your mind in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.’

Then, on a later occasion, by completely transcending the base of nothingness, I entered and dwelt in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

“If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

*Siddhatta Gotama soon realized that this state, too, offered no assurance of cessation from rebirth. Hence, he moved on to practice further austerities.

9 The Signless

“Here, friends, while I was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in my mind thus: ‘It is said, “the signless concentration of mind, the signless concentration of mind.” What now is the signless concentration of mind?’

“Then, friends, it occurred to me: ‘Here, by non-attention to all signs, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the signless concentration of mind. This is called the signless concentration of mind.’

“Then, friends, by non-attention to all signs, I entered and dwelt in the signless concentration of mind. While I dwelt therein my consciousness followed along with signs.

“Then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by means of spiritual power and said this: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna, do not be negligent, brahmin, regarding the signless concentration of mind. Steady your mind in the signless concentration of mind, unify your mind in the signless concentration of mind, concentrate your mind in the signless concentration of mind.’ Then, on a later occasion, by non-attention to all signs, I entered and dwelt in the signless concentration of mind. “If, friends, one speaking rightly could say of anyone: ‘He is a disciple who attained to greatness of direct knowledge with the assistance of the Teacher,’ it is of me that one could rightly say this.”

*This 9th stage of meditation absorption is mentioned here as a reference to our most recent series, the Vajrasāmadhi Sutra, which highlighted the depth of deathless signlessness and beyond.

17.“Still in search, bhikkhus, of what is wholesome, seeking the supreme state of sublime peace, I wandered by stages through the Magadhan country until eventually I arrived at Senānigama near Uruvelā. [167] There I saw an agreeable piece of ground, a delightful grove with a clear-flowing river with pleasant, smooth banks and nearby a village for alms resort. I considered: ‘This is an agreeable piece of ground, this is a delightful grove with a clear-flowing river with pleasant, smooth banks and nearby a village for alms resort. This will serve for the striving of a clansman intent on striving.’ And I sat down there thinking: ‘This will serve for striving.’

Senānigama near Uruvelā: Here, after leaving Āḷāra and Uddaka, the Bodhisatta settles-in to a prolonged six-year-period enduring the most severe penances prior to his sitting on the bank of the Nerañjarā River at the root of the Bodhi tree — the tree of awakening (the bodhimaṇḍa) where he realized enlightenment.

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