Corruption of the dhamma
The Buddha was chiefly interested in the ending of dukkha.
After he passed away the focus has very unfortunately changed due, I believe, to influences from other ascetic traditions. After years of study of the suttas, reading many books and essays and my personal practice and realisation, I came to the conclusion that the original dhamma of the Buddha has been corrupted in at least six main aspects, as follows:
- The 1st corruption was the introduction of the four samāpattis above the four jhānas. These four attainments are the attainments that the future Buddha learned from his two teachers. He quickly became very good at them and each teacher in turn wanted him to teach with them but the future Buddha said: “No, that’s not good enough. This does not remove my dukkha.” So he moved on. He moved on once, he moved on twice. In the end, he abandoned these samāpattis. I now have a question. What could be the reason to re-insert into the dhamma the samāpattis that he rejected before becoming the Buddha? The difference was for him that after having tried these attainments he tried very ascetic practices he came to realise, that this is a waste of time as this is not removing my dukkha. Then he remembered, what for me was his stream-entry moment when he had his first jhāna. I consider this as the stream-entry event of the future Buddha because at that moment he removes doubt about the path to awakening. From there he went into a totally new and different path than everybody else. Why will he reintroduce later on these practices that he had rejected before, for not being good enough for realising nibbāna? There are a certain number of suttas where you find this four samāpattis as a progression after the four jhānas. But most importantly they are not found in very important suttas such as DN 2 where the Buddha talks to a King about the benefits of the spiritual life. This would have been the perfect place for reinforcing that, yes, after the four jhānas you have to do the four samāpattis and eventually the cessation of perception and feelings (nirodha), but no, he didn’t! There are many suttas that talk about jhāna, several hundreds of them where there is no mention of the samāpattis and of nirodha. My interpretation of this situation is that a certain number of suttas were given to some monks or nuns for them to memorise and pass on from generation to generation and in some cases, these people came from the Hindu tradition, they were already trained in these samāpattis and decided to put them into the suttas of the Buddha. And where to put them if not after the jhānas? If you study these suttas you realise that there was no other place to put them. This has caused a huge misunderstanding in some Theravada circles which is that jhāna must be a concentration activity in preparation for more concentration activities, the samāpattis. Today we found this discrepancy between these suttas, not that many by the way, and the other suttas that present the jhāna on their own without anything after. Finally, and this is the main thing, the samāpattis and the nirodha are not in the Eight-fold-path, there are not in the 7 factors of awakening, and they are not in the 37 wings of awakening as listed in the mahāvagga section of the Samyutta Nikāya, while the four jhānas are part of the 8FP and of the 7 factors of awakening, are the samādhi components. All scholars, including monks and nuns, agree that nobody knows what these states are for. So if we don’t know what they are for, let’s apply the Kalama sutta approach, which is: is it useful? Is it going to produce the goods? Am I going to realise nibbāna with these things? If you are not convinced then don’t practice them. Luckily I didn’t go into any of these practices. In the end, I didn’t need them and I’m quite happy not having wasted my time trying these practices. The samāpattis are concentrative states. The result of inserting them in some suttas after the jhānas caused people to believe that the jhānas are also concentrative activities. This causes major confusion for people who thought then that jhānas are the result of concentrative practice, while jhānas occur naturally as a result of having abandoned the five hindrances. This is a major corruption as now people focus on meditation instead of focusing in abandoning the causes of dukkha.
- For the Mahayana tradition that develops starting four hundred years after the Buddha, becoming an arahant is not the goal. The goal is to develop bodhicitta wanting to become a Buddha. But the term Buddha is just an honorific one applied to the one who has re-discover the path to the ending of dukkha. When the ending of the causes of dukkha happens to anyone they will become exactly the same as the Buddha said he was: i.e. an arahant. An arahant is not a perfect person. There is no concept of perfection in the dhamma. Instead, an arahant is a worthy person: worthy to themselves first, then to others as having stopped projecting their ego (cravings, fears & aversions) to the world their attitude is not driven by any desire for gain for themselves. The new goal of bodhicitta is the second major corruption of the dhamma.
- Lay people cannot become free from dukkha. You have to be a monastic. A variant is: if you become free as a lay person then you have to become as soon as possible a monastic otherwise you’ll die. There is no sutta that says that two things. Instead, the Buddha wanted to make sure before he passed away that the dhamma was well established in the four communities of male and female monastics and lay. For me, that means that you should find “Noble persons”, stream-enterers and arahants in all four communities. In the Therigāthā (collection of nun’s testimonies) there are three nuns that claim they became nuns after having reached their goal as lay persons.
- Another corruption from all Buddhist traditions is the emphasis on “insight” or “knowledge”. This corruption may have originated from the fact that the chief cause of dukkha is “ignorance” or “delusion”. So it seems logical that insight and knowledge would dispel ignorance and delusion. Unfortunately, this is not true. Yes, we need an initial acknowledgment of being deluded about something in order to commit to transforming ourselves. Knowledge does not remove the effects (i.e. the cravings) of ignorance and delusion. We need to abandon the effects of a delusion in order to eventually abandon completely the delusion. For example, we may come to realise that anger is not a useful answer to unpleasant situations. Having realised this, does it remove anger from our psyche? Unfortunately not! We need to go thru the process explained in the Transforming Emotions course where we 1st make peace with the past (events and associated people), then we repeatedly stop our anger reaction until the new habit of just staying present with the unpleasantness of the situation without reaction. The emphasis on insight (renamed vipassanā by some traditions) is another major corruption of the dhamma. It was developed again due to the lack of success of “doing” jhānas which is not doable but the result of abandoning the five hindrances. the vipassanā movement is something relatively recent in the Buddhist world. As far as I know, it started at the end of the 19 century in Burma. From there it spread around the world and became a popular movement that we are still living through at the moment. When you look at the suttas, vipassanā is not described as a practice. It is a quality that needs to be developed. If you look at the number of suttas where the word vipassanā appears, compare to the number of suttas where the words samatha, jhāna, and samādhi appear, you will see that the word vipassanā appears very rarely and it’s almost all the time associated with samatha or samādhi. For me, samatha and vipassanā are the two sides of the same coin. It is a set of qualities, samatha is peacefulness, tranquillity of body and mind and vipassanā is the insight as a result of that. You don’t ‘do’ vipassanā, you don’t ‘do’ samatha. Again once you have done a good job at abandoning greed, hatred and delusion then naturally you experience samatha and then because your mind is in peace and tranquil you have true insights coming into you without again having to do anything.
- Doing jhānas. Several Theravada teachers are presenting methods for doing jhānas. They are based on the assumption that jhānas are highly concentrated states of mind. Some even teach that the body is gone while in jhānas. As result, there is controversy about what one experiences while in jhānas. Several suttas present clearly the qualities one experiences in each of the 4 jhānas. Some qualities are mental (I.e pīti (joy), equanimity), and others are physical (I.e. the various sukha-pleasure). But these teachers are saying that sukha is not physical so for them, jhāna is purely a mental experience. This does not go well with the suttas that talk about the three types of pleasure: of the 5 senses, of jhānas and of having realised nibbāna.
- How to use the 8FP to abandon the causes of dukkha? The knowledge has been lost soon after the Buddha was gone. This is due to the fact that in the suttas we found what needs to be achieved and the tools to be used but not the “recipe” for how to use the tools and when. As result, associated with the new emphasis on “insight” or “knowledge” the 8FP, in particular the 1st component, “view”, has lost its potency. Developing the “right view” is simply seen as “right understanding” in particular regarding the Four Truths. This is a very narrow, limited use of “view” and this will not remove the causes of dukkha. Instead, we have to develop a “complete view” for each component of our specific list of cravings, fears and aversions that would allow us to then put in place the “right intention” to abandon them.
- As a result of introducing the samapattis into the Path there were additional corruptions: the introduction of additional 5 fetters and of two stages between stream-entry and arahants. All these additions are just inserted here and there without any details. If one compares the treatment of the jhanas, the 5 fetters, stream-entry, arahanship in the suttas we found many suttas describing them in quite good detail, instead there are no suttas describing in detail the samapattis qualities and the additional stages of once-returner and non-returner.