The Dustless Dhammacakkhu


One of the best descriptions of the Great Deathless Vision (Noble-Ariyan Path) is recalled in the Vimānavatthu:

And the Buddha, the rishi-bull, the guide, taught me of the impermanence of uprising and dukkha; of the unconditioned*, of the cessation of dukkha, that are eternal; and of this path*, not crooked, straight, auspicious. When I heard (of) the Deathless* place, the unconditioned *, the Teaching of the Tathagata, the Unrivalled One, I was well and highly restrained in the precepts, firm in the Dhamma taught by the Buddha, the most excellent of men. When I knew the dustless* place, the unconditioned*, taught by the Tathagata, the Unrivalled One, I right there reached the calm (supermundane* – VvA 84) concentration. That same highest assurance* was mine. (Masefield, pg. 40)

The finest and concise term that encapsulates this gnosis is the Dhammacakkhu, or the Dhamma-eye, the Dhamma vision; the paramount insight into the Four Truths as acquired through oral initiation, hence awakening a supernal sight into the impermanence of the phenomenal world—THE dustless, Deathless Sanctuary that is the very essence of the Aryian Path (paraphrase from Masefield’s definition). Masefield contends that Right Gnosis and Right Release need to be included in the equation of the Noble Path in order to assure that proper Samādhi is initiated in order for the full-equation to be Self-realized. Also, one’s ability to remain on this *Right Path* entails Right View*, or internalizing the proper-hearing of the great thunderous Dharma-drum when resounded and mediated by a Buddha, thus opening the door to the Great Beyond of Deathlessness. Masefield reiterates again and again that *Deathless Sound* (Parato ghosa) is essential in this great dharma-enterprise. If not undertaken, as such, the Buddhadharma is in danger of just being codified into dogmatic statements that are devoid of the transformative and original sweetness of the Tathagatas voice, ‘Wonderful is the voice of the Sugata; it dispels the doubt and pain of living beings. My āsravas have been destroyed and all my pain has gone now that I have heard that voice’ (ibid, pg. 45). This highlights that liberation is won, not by exclusive virtue on the text (as text) alone, but by opening up the Nirvanic-Mind:

Moreover we should note that this disappearance of the Dhamma (as sound) will be marked by the monks turning away from the sound of the Dhamma and towards its attempted formulation in speech – having lost their inner contact with the Dhamma they will turn to an externalized, expositional Dhamma in the form of the sutta. This sympathy may be found expressed elsewhere, such as where the Buddha warns Ananda that it is not fit that a savaka* should follow after a teacher for the sake of an exposition in the form of suttas and mixtures of suttas and verses (suttaṁ geyyaṁ); he should follow after a teacher for the sake of that talk which is a help to opening up the mind (cetovivaraṇasappāyā) and which conduces to enlightenment and nibbāna (Majjhima Nikāya iii 115)…

For just as the Buddha causes people to see the Four Truths*, to see nibbāna, by means of causing the Dhammacakkhu*, the Dhamma-eye, to arise within them, so too does he cause them to hear that same Dhamma by means of causing the Dhammasota*, the Dhamma-ear*, to arise within them. This is why the gift of the Dharma is likened to a blissful sound…(ibid, pgs.48-49)

Even though, for instance, a puthujjana, may have little dust in one’s eye, their inner Dharma-ear is still clogged—not being able to hear the salvific message—and hence are still “hemmed-in by the sense-pleasures and thus in bondage to Mara.” The case-study of “Suppabuddha the leper” in the Udāna is a good instance where one can be properly attuned to the Noble-Aryian Path:

When the Lord knew that the heart of Suppabuddha the leper was ready, malleable, devoid of the hindrances, uplifted, devout, then did he make visible to him that Dhamma teaching that the Buddhas have themselves discovered: dukkha, its uprising, its cessation and the path*. And as a clean cloth without black specks will easily take dye, even so, as Suppabuddha the leper was (sitting) there on that very seat , the Dhammacakkhu *, dustless, stainless, arose to him that: ‘Whatever is of a nature to uprise, all that is of a nature to cease’…

Thus here we have a clear instance of an individual being established on the supermundane* plane through hearing Dhamma in the presence of the ariyans* – in this case the Buddha – for it is through hearing that Dhamma that he acquires the Dhammacakkhu*, the Dhamma-eye* by means of which he is then able to see the ariyan* Truth* of impermanence. (ibid, pgs. 58-59)

The Udāna also makes the prominent case for the absolute-absolvement from Mara’s snares and incessant re-becoming:

Monks, there is that which is not born* (Unborn), not become, not made, not conditioned. Monks, if there were not that which is not born*, not become, not made, not conditioned, there could be made known no escape from that which is born, become, made, conditioned here. But since, monks, there is that which is not born *, not become, not made, not conditioned , therefore the escape from that which is born, become, made, conditioned, is made known.

Yea, this is the very *Deathless Realm*, a dustless-place that is inaccessible to Death or Mara—such is the Great Escape from his realm of destruction and re-becoming and all that it entails:

For the Dhammacakkhu* grants one sight of nibbāna, which is much more than the uprising and cessation of dhammas – it is also the unborn*, the unageing, the undecaying, the Deathless*, the sorrowless*, the stainless*, the utmost security from bonds (M i 167; cp A ii 247), to mention but a few synonyms, just as to see the Four Truths* is to see the Deathless* (ibid, pg. 66)

The full nuance of the Dhammacakkhu-Factor is oftentimes conferred, not through excessive verbiage, but rather through one, poignant, code-word—a word that (is heard) and comes to life within the Unborn Place of Deathlessness:

The masters of the spiritual life tell us that the hidden word comes to them all of a sudden for ‘one brief moment’ and quotes, amongst others, the remarks of Augustine that ‘In this first flash when thou art as if struck by lightning, when thou hearest inwardly the affirmation “Truth” there remain if thou canst’. (ibid, pg. 69)

This is reminiscent of my own early spiritual transformation, one that I wrote about in the Lankavatarian Book of the Dead series, concerning the writings of St. John of the Cross. Masefield explains this as:

…a formulation of the truth in sound and as a formula which embodies in its sound the special power to bring into reality the truth it expresses and which is imparted by way of ‘the whispering into the candidate’s ear’ of the rahasya (secret doctrine) or the mantra (magic formula) of the cult through which power and enlightenment appropriate to his grade is communicated to him in a flash.

This further suggests that for Hui Neng to become enlightened upon overhearing the Diamond Sutra is no more an innovation than the Tibetan Book of the Dead in which it is said that ‘this “Great Liberation through Hearing” is a teaching which enlightens without meditation, a teaching which liberates just by being heard… (ibid, pg. 69)

Along the line of that “whispering into the candidate’s ear” the secret magic formula of Divine inspiration and initiation, I’m reminded of the following image wherein a similar, mystical-Hindu ceremony, does the same with the young initiate’s mother whispering the Divine Sound into his ear. (Note the painted swastika on the top of the boy’s head—a further sign of the auspiciousness of the moment.)


The initiate on the Noble-Aryian Ten-fold Path to Liberation will come to recognize “that this insatiable world will soon cease; that the saha-world is no refuge, with nothing to safeguard one; that this empty plane of existence has to be brought to an end and needs to be dropped leaving everything behind; one leaves with the assurance that no further craving for this insufficient sphere is required.” (paraphrase, pg. 72) The following best concludes this present section:

…when the Buddha opens the doors to the Deathless* it is, from that moment onwards possible to hear the sound of the Deathless*, parato ghosa; and those who are capable (bhabba) of hearing and understanding that Dhamma, or other words of gaining the Dhamma-ear* which pulls out the knowledge and insight* latent in them and causes them to reach the plane of the ariyans* (AA iii 375), are thenceforth able to exercise their hitherto unusable capacity for faith*…

Such faith* cannot be destroyed by anyone, including Mara, since it is rooted in vision (dassanamūlikā- M i 320) and anyone in whom such faith* is settled, rooted, established, firm, may declare himself a true son* of the Lord, born from his mouth, Dhamma-born, Dhamma-created, an heir to the Dhamma (D iii 84).

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