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7th June 1998

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Striving for the Four Noble Truths

By Roy de Mel

The Lord BuddhaIn order to attain Nibbana, one has to realise the Four Noble Truths by treading on the Noble Eight Fold Path preached by the Blessed One. Generally it is said that when one realises the Four Noble Truths, one attains Nibbana. However we have to go deep in to this matter to get at the real meaning of this statement. It will be clearly understood by connecting the 4 Noble Truths to the 9 Supramundane Dhammas.

The Four Noble Truths -

(1) The first truth is Dukkha Sacca - Realising Dukkha (i.e. realising Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta)

(2) The second truth is Samudaya Sacca - Eradicating Craving

(3) The third truth is Nirodha Sacca - Realising Nibbana state

(4) The fourth truth is Magga Sacca - Completion of the N.E.F. path by the occurrence of magga citta (path thought).

The Nine Supramundane Dhammas are -

4 Magga cittas (path thoughts)

4 Phala cittas (fruition thoughts)

1 Nibbana

The 4 Magga cittas and the 4 Phala cittas can be explained as follows-

(1) When magga citta occurs for the first time, it is followed by sovan phala citta.

(2) When maggga citta occurs for the second time, it is followed by sakadagami phala citta.

(3) When magga citta occurs for the third time, it is followed by anagami phala citta.

(4) When magga citta occurs for the fourth time, it is followed by arahatta phala citta.

Now, let us examine the first of the four above stages. It is - "when magga citta occurs for the first time, it is followed by sovan phala citta". Now, when will magga citta occur for the first time? Answer is, magga citta being the fourth noble truth, magga citta will occur only after realising the first three noble truths.

Hence it follows that -

(1) One realises Sovan Phala citta only on realising the four noble truths for the first time.

(2) Sakadagami level is reached on realising the four noble truths for the second time.

(3) Angami level is reached on realising the four noble truths for the third time.

(4) Arahat, the fully enlightened level is reached on realising the four noble truths for the fourth time.

The Blessed One had realised all four stages in double quick time in one sitting itself. Some Arahats also have realised the four stages on the same day, and some during the same birth. However, the time from the first stage up to the fourth stage will vary depending on the individual, the maximum period being seven births.

Sotapatti-phala level

The first stage, sotapatti-phala level can be reached by the practice of insight meditation at a meditation centre. One has to observe the eight or the ten precepts and engage on insight meditation, being aware of all thoughts that come in. Thus, one will be covering factors number one to seven of the noble eight fold path. When one does this correctly, one reaches the eighth factor - right concentration, and becomes one who is treading on all eight factors at the same time, the eight factors being-

(1) Right Seeing/Understanding .View- comes under wisdom (panna)

(2) Right Thinking

(3) Right Speech under virtue (sila)

(4) Right Action

(5) Right Livelihood

(6) Right Effort

(7) Right Mindfulness under concentration (samadhi)

(8) Right Concentration

When one practises insight meditation in the manner explained, one realises three ordinary wisdoms and nine by vipassana wisdoms to reach sothapatti-phala level, by realising the four noble truths for the first time, as given below.

The three ordinary wisdoms-

(1) That there is no "I" "Me" or a "Person" in this body of ours, and that it is only name and rupa (mind and matter). This is known as ditthi visuddhi (purity of view). It is the knowledge of mind and matter determination and is known as namarupa-pariccheda-gnana.

(2) That we had been born earlier, and also there will be future births. This is known as kankhavitarana visuddhi, which is the right view and withered the defilement of doubt. It is known as knowledge of conditionality - (paccaya pariggaha gnana).

(30) Commencement of realising Dukkha (Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta). It is termed as Magga magga gnana - dassana visuddhi which means the purity of the knowledge and vision regarding path and not path. It is known as mastering knowledge - Sammassana gnana.

Nine vipassana wisdoms-

(1) Realising the arising and falling of nama and rupa. This is known as Udayabbaya gnana.

(2) Realising the wisdom of dissolution of nama and rupa. This is known as Bhanganupassana gnana.

(3) Realising the wisdom of fearfulness of nama and rupa. This is known as Bhayatupatthana gnana.

(4) Realising the wisdom of dangers of nama and rupa. This is Adinavapassana gnana.

(5) Realising the wisdom of disgust with nama and rupa. This is Nibbidanupassana gnana.

(6) Realising the wisdom of desire for deliverance from nama and Rupa. This is Munacittukammayata gnana.

(7) Realising the wisdom for strong desire to and suffering. This is Patisankhanupassana gnana.

(8) Realising the wisdom of equanimity about nama and rupa. This is Sankhara-rupekkha nana. Here one falls into the state of majjhima patipada (Middle Way).

(9) It is at the ninth vipassana wisdom known as Anuloma nana, that one realises the first and the second noble truths for the first time. The first noble truth is realised with a vision in connection with anicca, dukkha or anatta, realising anicca, dukkha and anatta. This is realising the first noble truth anatta. This is realising the first noble truth for the first time. Realising the first noble truth for the first time, is followed by eradication of craving (1500 kilesas) temporarily. This is realising the second noble truth for that first time.

Third noble truth

Immediately after realising the second noble truth for the first time, the object of the mind which is generally name-rupa (ordinary thoughts) changes from nama-rupa to "nibbana state" as the object of the mind. Thus one experiences a glimpse of nibbana, realising nibbana for the first time in life. This is realising the third noble truth for the first time. This is known as Gottarabhu- nana.

Fourth noble truth

Nibbana being a supramundane state, one realises two supramundane thoughts whilst still in nibbana. The first supramundane thought is experiencing a bright silvery light like lightning. It's a sudden occurrence. This is known as "magga citta" or "magga nana". This is realising the fourth noble truth for the first time. It erases the first three fetters, namely self illusion (sakkaya ditthi), doubts (vicikiccha), indulgence in wrongful rites and ceremonies (siliabbataparamasa).

Fruition thought (Phala citta)

Immediately after realising the fourth noble truth for the first time, and whilst still in nibbana state, it is followed by a fruition thought. Here one realises a deep peace of mind, which had never been experienced before.

After realising the fruition thought for a moment, the object of the mind changes from nibbana state to the normal thought process which is nama-rupa.

The above occurrences have now changed the individual to sotapatti phala level, having realised the four noble truths for the first time, and the fruition thought (phala citta) for the first time.

This individual has become an ariyapuggala on two occasions, that is while realising the two supramundane thoughts. He is assured of not being born in any of the lower states of vice namely - hell, animal state, hungry ghost and demon. He is assured of Arahatship in not more than seven births the maximum.

A sotapati-phala puggala (stream winner) can reach sakadagami state by realising the four noble truths for the second time. He will be born only once in case he does not attain Arahatship. He has weakened two more-fetters - namely sense desires (Kamaraga) and ill-will (patigaha).

One reaches the third stage Anagami by realising the four noble truths for the third time. He completely discards the above two fetters. He does not return to this world because be has no more desire for sensual pleasures. After death he is born in the 'Pure Abodes' (Suddhavasa), till he becomes a fully Enlightened One.

The fourth stage Arahatship is reached by realising the four noble truths for the fourth time. He destroys the remaining fetters - namely, lust after life in Realms of Forms (Ruparaga) and Formless Realms (Aruparaga), Conceit (Mana), Restlessness (Uddhacca), and Ignorance (Avijja). After death he will not be re-born as he has attained Nibbana.

Telling the tale of PossonMihintale

King Tissa the Monarch of Lanka
Chasing a deer below
Suddenly heard "Tissa Tissa",
Looking above he saw
An amazing figure in saffron robes,
Venerable Arahat Mahinda!

An ever immemorial meeting
Greatest turn in Lanka's history,
After an interesting dialogue
The King was converted to Buddhism
Creating proud history
As the first Buddhist of Lanka!

On this immemorial day
From the sacred hill-top Mihintale
Voice of Buddhism echoed over Lanka!
Scent of Buddhism spread over Lanka!
'Light of Lanka' lighted the isle
Saved the isle from savage vile!

Sri Lankans ever indebted
Sri Lankans ever grateful
Ever pay homage to thee,
O' Venerable Arahat Mahinda!

Malini Hettige

Call for peace on this great Day

Ven. Sri Sumangala Nayake Thero who runs a meditation centre at his vihare, Sri Sudasanaramaya believes that a national government could be the remedy to ethnic strife.

By. Roshan Peiris.

Ven. Sri Sumangala Nayake TheroThe Ven. Sri Sumangala Nayake Thero in an interview with The Sunday Times said, "Poson Poya is a great day for us Buddhists." The Mahawamsa relates that Buddhism was brought here by Arahat Mahinda on Poson day.

"Some chronicles however state that Buddhism was here prior to Arahat Mahinda's visit. This is ascertained by the fact that Lord Buddha arrived thrice before and gave sermons to our people." But with Arahat Mahinda's advent said the Thero, Buddhism was revived.

Ven Sri Sumangala Thero has turned his vihare Sri Sudasanaramaya into a centre for meditation and healing through meditation. The Thero and those who work with him at the vihare wear chocolate brown robes which is a manifestation that theirs is primarily a meditation centre.

Walking on a roughly hewn bridge of barks one approaches the vihare and sitting there patiently are people to see the Thero.

Sri Sumangala Thero is a quiet man and with eyes closed he meditates and gives a description of a person's illness. The Thero also works among refugees in Trincomalee and Batticaloa. He says he is disturbed by the ethnic war which is taking away from us our precious sons and daughters.

"If we Sinhala people in the south get together and show a solid and united front we won't have a Tamil problem as such. We must all learn to live together as we have done all these thousands of years."

"I hope a national government will come to power with the unity of the two main Sinhala political parties and other Sinhala parties too.

"If not we the Sangha who are not interested in politics but only in the protection of our country will have to act. The Sinhala people have no other place ,only Sri Lanka, to call their own.

"You want to know whether I accept the Devolution Package? Most certainly not, for it seeks to fragment our country.It will nullify the power of Parliament and will hinder progress of the people in social, economic and cultural spheres. It will also lead to a multiplicity of problems among our people."

"If the two major Sinhala political parties get together seventy five percent of the ethnic problem can be solved. We must save the Sinhala race and on the great spiritual day of Poson I venture to hope that this country will attain peace," he said.

The Thero said he works with refugees in the Eastern Province. "I go with others and distribute clothes, food and medicine. I also comfort the mentally distressed and preach to them and give them books to read, to get solace."

The Thero closed his eyes for a while in meditation and softly added "I hope after this Poson Poya this country will see peace and harmony where we can live together mindful of the needs of each other."

Temple bells and rhythmic criesMihintale

Sanctity, serenity, solemnity
Pervades the air, abounding tranquility.
Seven miles away from Anuradhapura
Mihintale majestically stands
Dew drops studded glistening strands.

Enlivens the serene domain for days
During Poson full moon bright rays.
Pilgrims throng from far away
Wend the weary way,
One thousand eight hundred rocky steps in
Humble homage unsurpassed to pay.

Temple bells incessantly echoing chimes
Blending with appealing " Sadhu Sadhu" rhythmic cries
Our memory awakened, Peace calmly whispered,
Legendary history, picturesque venue hallowed.

Temple flowers fragrant in utmost reverence
Strewn covering the stony distance.
In every ear along the trek wondrous
Resound, vibrate, enchanting melodious
'Chulahaththipadoma" sutra by Arahat Mahinda
Chanting Truthful Dhamma, of Tathagatha.

In a weird, world, may this message
Pass through rustling breeze every passage
Quell envy, enmity, savagery
Let every vein swell in camaraderie, amity
For co-existence in cohesiveness
Scattering humane fragrance, oneness

Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon

Invaluable message

On Poson, Full Moon day
It was the 'Message of Peace
And non-violence'
That Great Arahat 'Mahinda'
Introduced to our 'Pearl of the Orient',
The great Arahat extolled
The value of 'Ahimsa'
Or not torturing animals or humans,
To a generation that adored
Hunting as a sport!
O, thy advice, thy message is
Today invaluable and priceless
To a generation rotten with
Greed for power and wealth,
Cutting each other's throats
In a gruesome war;
For what aim?
Aren't we humans?
Can't we unite?

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