Let's talk about purification

So, I have this view on meditation that seems to differ from most buddhists view on meditation. After more than 15 years of studying first buddhism in general, then mostly Theravadabuddhism and then early buddhism, diving deeper in the Nikaya suttas, then the Agama suttas, and a lot of writings on the subject from both monastics and scholars, I have made up my own view on the path, or meditation. Which of course differs from others who have read different texts and incline to different perspectives. Sometimes I feel lonely because I have “my own buddhism”. Maybe not in a place like this, but certainly when I visit some temples, monasteries and talk to monks and lay people.

I try to discuss Dhamma with them, but I always get the same respons - practice instead of do talking, do some anapanasati and then everything will reveal it self.

Actually I feel this is very wierd. What I have learned from Lord Buddha is that my being has greed, hate and delusion as a cause. So If I look inside my self for answers, I will have these three fires as my teacher. I have to take right view as my teacher, the teaching of the Buddha that is, isn’t it so?

He said that we should purify our selves, from desire and unwholesome actions. So when I feel anger for exampel, I can remember my mother or some one else say to me that anger is no good. Or the society says that anger is bad. Or something else make me want to get rid of anger. But none of these motivations are really enough. I have to have right intention, the longing of cooling down anger because of the view that it leads to lower realms, really terrifying and horrible realms, and that as long as I have anger I won’t be freed from suffering. It is so easy to question worldly motivation. My mother or someone else says anger is bad, why? I have never won anything from beeing a pussy who never from time to time freak out and really show them. Besides, I have seen many people who have had a successful life even though they where stingy and ill-tempered all their life. But the Buddha says that we don’t know if there comes a world after this one. Maybe not…? Or maybe…? Would I dare to risk fall to hell? And maybe never meet a Buddha or his teachings again.

When I feel anger and show it to some one I feel bad afterwards. Then I think that I should never do it again, because it has really frightening results according to my Teacher. After some time I get angry and express it to some poor suffering person, again. Why? I know that it is really unskillful. It’s because I havn’t established right view deep in my heart, there is a lack of faith. Here is my own view of the path, of purification, or meditation: Here someone would say that I should sit down and meditate, to cool down and be able to more quickly see anger when it arises and to stop it before it comes up above the surface. Even though the motivation to do that comes from a buddhist world view it really isn’t what I see as purification. Right view should result in an emotional reaction to unwholesomeness, like if you really like your partner and then you find dead bodies in his or her freezer, heads and skin cut off. That would be horrifying, and you don’t need to sit down and meditate with this new view - “Ok, so my partner is a bloody murderer, I should practice meditation to cool down my love and then leave him/her”. You run like hell, because every emotions in your body and mind tells you so.

When the Buddha told you that there is hell and heaven, suffering and freedom from suffering, his majestic and enlightened appearence made you have complete faith in him, right view became almost instantly established in your heart. You really fear wrong actions now and your heart inclines to good will and compassion. It’s like you didn’t even need to make an effort, it bubbles up from your heart! Now you can’t allow your self to perform any unskillful deed, even if your life is threatened, because you feel within every cell in your body that there is hell following bad deeds by body, speech and mind, and complete freedom from suffering if you stay away from unwholesomeness (This instant faith is surely the case of Nanda, who had his doubts until the Buddha took him by his arm and brought him to the heavens, with all the beautiful devis with delicate bodies, so much more beautiful than the human women who looks like a bag of shit in comparison. And all these devis are yours if you practice the Dhamma, Lord Buddha said. Nanda never more wanted anything earthly and went straight to the forest. That is some upaya, skillful teaching!) . But you didn’t meet the Buddha, or any one else who could lit the fire of right view in your heart. So you struggle with doubt, deep rooted in your heart, even if you say that you believe the Buddha, to others and your self.

Faith is the first step. The Sangha is the best company. The good lay practitioner visits the Sangha often and sees them as the Living Dhamma, gives them gifts first. What they say goes straight to the heart. I don’t even need to sit down to meditate. Just like I left my murderous partner because I felt so much fear and disgust, now I turn away from sensuality and wholesomeness without effort, because these good sons and daughters of the Buddha has told me the true nature of the world for me. The world is murderous, escape it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. The undescribable happiness of eternal freedom from suffering is possible to achieve.

To deepen my faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha and the establishing of right view in my heart, that is my meditation, whatever I do which leads to that, either walking, standing, sitting or lying down. For a long time I wondered what exactly it is that make it impossible for a stream enterer to perform immoral actions. What have the meditation done with them? What have it made them see? Now I see stream entry simply as unshakeable faith. Of course! They can’t allow them selves to kill, steal, cheat their partner, lie and intoxicate them selves because that would be like going to a murderers house. You just don’t want to do that, because you have heard about the murderer from a trustworthy person and you believe it.

So constantly put in mind in fellow buddhists the danger in bad deeds, and the rewards of renunciation. Tell about morality, generosity and give a talk about the heavens. Why is the path of purification so often reduced to following the breath? Let’s have a nice chat instead.


While the sotāpanna certainly has unwavering faith, it could be misleading to refer to it as something based on belief. Consider the epithet that introduces a new sotāpanna in the suttas (e.g. MN 56):

diṭṭhadhammo pattadhammo viditadhammo pari­yogāḷ­ha­dhammo tiṇ­ṇavici­kiccho vigata­kathaṃ­katho vesāraj­jap­patto aparappaccayo satthusāsane

. . . having seen the Dhamma, having attained the Dhamma, having known the Dhamma, having fathomed the Dhamma, having crossed over and beyond uncertainty, having no more perplexity, having gained fearlessness, having becoming independent of others with regard to the Teacher’s message . . .

This faith is a conviction that arises out of having “seen” nibbāna.


Anger is always really painful. It seems to me that the more one cultivates the habit of looking at anger when it arises, fully grasping its painful qualities, and understanding how it can and does cease, the more letting go of it becomes habitual.

It as though someone has an obsessive-compulsive drive to peel their skin off their hands, or stick needles in their necks. Once they mindfully attend to what they are doing, they stop doing these things. They come face to face with their own everyday insanity, and how painful are so many of their habitual actions.

Usually our minds are roiling with confusion or ignorance. There are big blank or muddy spots in the field of awareness of our impulsive behavior. We don’t see all of the self-torturing that occurs when we act on an impulse, or when some small seed of unpleasant emotion grows into a proliferating jungle of horror. To progress beyond this ignorance, we just have to look carefully.

There are also long term harms one can inflict on oneself by allowing unskillful emotional states to take hold of our minds. A wise person can learn much about these long-term consequences, even without Buddhist teaching and practice. But the dedicated meditator probably doesn’t need much reflection on long term consequences, because the painful immediate consequences are so apparent.

I sometimes unskillfully allow anger to take hold of me. But the unskillful proliferation of emotion and the neglect of mindfulness are just two faces of the same vice, not two different vices.

The Buddha’s path is all for one’s own benefit.


This doesn’t seem right to me. A turbulent emotional counter-reaction to the arising of a turbulent emotional shock doesn’t strike me as an event likely to lead to the cessation of dukkha, but rather a way of adding another reinforcing current of dukkha to the stream of dukkha.

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Many thanks for this interesting contemplation Dhammiko.

Taking up a couple of the points you raise:

Like DKervick, I’m not 100% sure about this, and I think it could depend a little on the exact intended meaning. At any rate, the comment reminded me of another thread, On Encountering Nibbida, which although it has a different focus may or may not have some interesting points for you.

In a way, I think there’s something really wonderful about this. By coincidence I was recently following one of Ajahn Brahmali’s brilliant sutta classes on DN16. I was both intrigued and delighted when he mentioned a sutta in which the power of reflection is presented as a means for abandoning the three types of misconduct (see here - as an aside, I’d me thoroughly grateful if Ajhan @Brahmali would be able to give the specific sutta reference). Reflection, by my understanding definitely has a critically important role in the Buddha’s path.

The difficulty I have with this, is that it appears to present meditation and contemplation as an ‘either/or’ thing, whereas (again as I have understood things) both are non-negotiably essential for full liberation, and they are very much complementary.

Saying that, I’m quiet a fan of the one step at a time approach. :slight_smile:


Yes, I think you are right. As the suttas also says, Nibbana is to be viewed as the laying down of all burdens, the extinction of greed, hatred and delusion. When a man or woman listen to the Buddha with complete faith there is an emotional reaction to sensual pleasures and unwholesomeness, and the three fires are diminished to a degree that one can see the pain that arises from them, viewed from the happiness which comes from being freed from their grip. So yes, it’s more than faith, but the diminishing of greed, hatred and delusion is simultaneous to having unwavering faith. I think that if you really believe that anger is the gate to hell, and good will and compassion are the gates to heaven and freedom from suffering, you have no trouble abandoning anger, it almost happens by it self. So a person who really has unwavering faith in the Buddha will also be freed from greed, hatred and delusion to a great degree, which is the same as attaining a degree of awakening. As long as he is not an arahant there comes impulses of angry thoughts, but since he has attained right view he quickly dispells the thought, like a person who turns away from the house with a murderer when he knows the danger.

According to the Discourse to Pāṭaliya (MA 20), “attaining the Dharma” seems in fact to be equivalent to attaining jhana. Jhana is the essence of the Path and not Nibbana itself, but it is a glimps of the total freedom from burdens, which wets the appetite for laying down all the burdens for good. You could call it “seeing Nibbana”.

Then he examines himself: “I have abandoned the ten unwholesome courses of action, and have been mindful of the ten wholesome courses of action.” When he sees these ten unwholesome courses of action abandoned within himself, and is mindful of the ten wholesome courses of action, joy arises in him; joy having arisen, rapture arises; rapture having arisen, the body becomes calm; the body having become calm, he experiences happiness with the body; the body having experienced happiness, he attains one-pointedness of mind. […] Now I have attained the Dharma of the unsurpassable person, attained progress and a happy abiding; this is called the Dharma meditation of abandoning.

Further, the MA 20 state that the freedom from doubt (entering the stream that would be) comes from the attainment of jhana. Whatever anyone says, there is this world trancending peace which I have attained.

[the Buddha presents diffrent views on rebirth and kamma presented by different renunciants and brahmins]

What these renunciants and brahmins say may be correct or incorrect; but [whether] it is correct or incorrect, I have attained inner tranquility of mind.

What I’m proposing is that maybe entering the stream is the same as attaining jhana, which is nothing more than the abandoning of unwholesome courses of actions and the happiness which arises from reviewing this new purified inner state of being. Jhana, or stream entering, is therefore possible to achive by merely listening to the Dhamma, if there is complete faith in the words. To believe in the words of the Buddha conditions an emotional reaction to unwholesome courses of actions, fear to be associated to them, and desire to take wholesome courses of actions, and happiness to be associated with the wholesome. This need not to be a long process of practice and contemplation. The abandoning of the unwholesome, mindfulness of the wholesome, and happiness and tranquility based thereon, can all arise instantly when listening to a Dhammatalk with faith, as is the case in MA 20.

As this Dharma was being taught, the spotless and immaculate Dharmaeye in regard to all phenomena arose in Pāṭaliya the village headman. Pāṭaliya the village headman saw the Dharma, attained the Dharma, realized the bright and pure Dharma; he cut off doubt and went beyond perplexity; he became independent of other teachers; he would never again follow others; and he became free of hesitation. Having been established in the attainment of the fruit, he had attained fearlessness in the Dharma taught by the World-honored One.

Now, I’m aware that there are suttas which declare that stream entering is possible when dwelling in jhana, and so present them as two different things, but it is a fact that there are many conflicting statements in the suttas and you have to be aware of the possibility that some words may be later additions by monks making the teaching “better” out of their own understanding. The parts must be judged by the whole, and I think the whole points to what I have presented.

Concerning anapanasati, there are suttas that present this meditation as simply a method to get rid of disturbing thoughts. So it is peaceful and sublime, but only as a method of paving the way to purifying one self by contemplating the Dhamma, and not a meditation that in it self leads to awakening, which also is evident in the Anapanasati Sutta.

Maybe I use some strong words in my similes which gives an unintended impression :slightly_smiling_face: But moral fear (ottappa) is indeed part of right view, which is described in AN 7.6:

And what, bhikshus, is the treasure of moral fear? Here, bhikshus, a noble disciple is one who has moral fear. He feels moral fear towards misconduct with the body, misconduct with speech, misconduct with the mind. He is endowed with moral fear towards evil unwholesome states. This, bhikshus, is called the treasure of moral fear.

In other suttas the Buddha says that this fear is of different kinds. It is fear of the anguish following a bad deed, fear of punishment by the king, and fear of going to hell. I don’t know about you, but if I saw hell, I would run like hell :grinning:

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If one does Anapana or Metta to it’s end, there is no self to look at inside and this is what liberates. When we see, “oh this is just a thought, it’s JUST a thought, it has no substantial essence and when I see it as such it disappears and loses it’s pull and allure” then the mind will lose it’s inclination towards anger.

Of course, we have to restrain, but the outward (this includes thoughts as outward expressions of mind) movement only need be restrained to avoid any outward expression and harm for others, this is what the precepts are for. Real restrain is at the sense doors and as we follow the advice given to Bahiya, we will live in this way…“In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.”

It really can end here for us, but for some reason we forget how simple this path is. It is obvious that we need to follow sila in order to avoid the worst forms of kamma and harming others or ourselves, but this simple instruction to Bahiya states the full path.

When we are at the door of the senses (including at the mind door) we are not phased by what shows up at the door. It’s as though a stranger comes to our house door and says nothing, maybe they start screaming, but you know through the teachings that nothing is personal so you don’t take it personally and then it is just moving images (colours/shapes/light), sound vibrations, the play of air on the skin or movement on the skin through touch, scents in and of themselves, not allowing memory to attach or meaning to attach to anything that shows up at one of the senses.

This is the freedom the Buddha taught us and when we stop, immediately there is cessation. This is why I know the suttas are not fabricated in saying that 500 people became Arahants. If they do follow the instructions, in their purity and to the end, we can free ourselves. I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt, even though I am not free. I have done it enough times myself to know that it really is all about renunciation and just being at the door without welcoming anyone in as a guest.


I believe these simple instructions (above) to Bahiya, are Right View. We have the words of Right View to try to train our mind and shake us out of extreme delusion, but I believe the consummation of Right View is in this absolute guarding of the sense doors.

Try just looking through your eyes, seeing but not discriminating anything. Don’t allow the mind to latch onto any particular thing, but just be with the process of seeing. Liberation is so so close for us. It is not far away and if we keep doing this, all day long, we can free ourselves. I just know this so deep down…yet I get stuck. I forget, just like the rest of us. It is this forgetting to do what we must that keeps us bound.

It is this inclination towards getting bound up in the world like there is anything at all for us to do or be. I hope we all find and practice the way out. I hope we all find the simple way to freedom. The path is hard to see only because we are so invested in our identities, beliefs and views. If these are put aside, awakening can happen.

I don’t believe that we need to have past good kamma of practice. The Buddha would not have taught if we depended on our past kamma to awaken. He taught so that anyone who hears the Dhamma can awaken to it for oneself, right here and now.


With emotional reaction I mean fear of immoral deeds, but also dispassion. If you get to know that your partner is a murderer your love fades away instantly. When you get to know from the Buddha that sensual pleasure is a murderer your love for sensual things fades away. I say this to present a way of evoking dispassion, against the usual way of “stilling the mind by meditation”. Yes, if you follow the breath there won’t be unskillful thoughts, but it is one thing to react with dispassion towards the human body by contemplating the body as a bag of filth, and another to lead your thoughts away from passion by focusing on the breath. When I say “a stilled mind” it is a mind that doesn’t give rise to desire, anger and other unskillful thoughts. It is still because it doesn’t desire anything from outside the senses and so doesn’t wander about. And it may be achieved by contemplating the danger and futility of sensual pleasures, like when you hear the words of the Buddha, as in Assu Sutta (SN 15.3):

Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father… the death of a brother… the death of a sister… the death of a son… the death of a daughter… loss with regard to relatives… loss with regard to wealth… loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

It makes you become sooo tired of this wandering from life to life, it evokes dispassion. It makes your mind still, because your engagement in the world wane when you think about how tiresome repeated life is. No point in sensual desire, or anger when something comes between you and the delightful things in the world.

I will read the thread about Nibbida, thank you :slight_smile:

Concerning the power of reflection, or contemplation: Striving to establish right view, unshakeable faith in the view of life that the Buddha describes, that is my meditation. A thought based on greed, hate and delusion can be encountered by remembering Assu Sutta, or some other sutta.

No, it’s not an either/or thing :slight_smile: But as you can read in another post I made in this thread I’m not so sure anapanasati is much more than a method to get rid of distracting thoughts while you contemplate the words of the Buddha. Watching the breath can’t purify the mind by itself.

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I agree with this. But it seems to me this is something learned via direct experience. One doesn’t need to take some blind Kierkegaardian leap of faith to understand the cloying , irritating, unsatisfying nature of sensual pleasures, and how far they are from real happiness.

Hell is right here. You just need to step out of it.


One place the Buddha addressed the question of purity is in Sutta Nipata 5.7:


Whatever brahmans & contemplatives
describe purity
in terms of views & learning,
describe purity
in terms of habits & practices,
describe purity
in terms of manifold ways:
Have they, dear sir, living there in that way,
crossed over birth & aging?
I ask you, Blessed One.
Please tell me.

The Buddha:

Whatever brahmans & contemplatives
describe purity
in terms of views & learning,
describe purity
in terms of habits & practices,
describe purity
in terms of manifold ways:
None of them, living there in that way,
I tell you, have crossed over birth & aging.


Whatever brahmans & contemplatives
describe purity
in terms of views & learning,
describe purity
in terms of habits & practices,
describe purity
in terms of manifold ways:
If, sage, as you say,
they’ve not crossed over the flood,
then who in the world
of beings divine & human, dear sir,
has crossed over birth & aging?
I ask you, Blessed One.
Please tell me.

The Buddha:

I don’t say that all brahmans & contemplatives
are shrouded in birth & aging.
Those here who’ve abandoned
what’s seen, heard, & sensed,
habits & practices
who’ve abandoned their manifold ways
—again, all—
who, comprehending craving,
are effluent-free:
They are the ones, I tell you,
who’ve crossed over the flood.


I shall be most delighted to give the reference! :slight_smile:

They are from the Anguttara Nikāya 2s, suttas 11 to 13. They are quite similar. Here is AN 2.13 in Ven. Bodhi’s translation:

Bhikkhus, there are these two powers. What two? The power of reflection and the power of development.

And what is the power of reflection? Here, someone reflects thus: ‘Bodily misconduct has a bad result in the present life and in the future life; verbal misconduct has a bad result in the present life and in the future life; mental misconduct has a bad result in the present life and in the future life.’ Having reflected thus, he abandons bodily misconduct and develops bodily good conduct; he abandons verbal misconduct and develops verbal good conduct; he abandons mental misconduct and develops mental good conduct; he maintains himself in purity. This is called the power of reflection.

And what is the power of development? Here, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the first jhāna, which consists of rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by thought and examination. With the subsiding of thought and examination, he enters and dwells in the second jhāna, which has internal placidity and unification of mind and consists of rapture and pleasure born of concentration, without thought and examination. With the fading away as well of rapture, he dwells equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, he experiences pleasure 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.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and dejection, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna, neither painful nor pleasant, which has purification of mindfulness by equanimity. This is called the power of development.

These, bhikkhus, are the two powers.


Much thanks, Ajahn. :slight_smile: :pray:


So this makes it quite explicit, as has already been stated by others in this thread, that both, contemplation and meditation, are required for the path and are complementing each other.

In a way I also like to put it like this: Contemplation is done more with the intellectual side of our being, whereas meditation adds the emotional component to it. Both together are what makes us develop the full potential of our humanity!