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Relationship between Sila and the Brahmaviharas - What did the Buddha say?


#1

Greetings Kalyanamittas,

A friend and I were discussing the relationship between the BVs and Sila. I wonder if anyone could please elucidate on this from a doctrinal basis.

I have an understanding that the BrahmaViharas denote states of ‘absence of defilements’, and that the best way to develop BV’s is by following the Noble 8 fold path, through to the end. I have always thought of sila as the ‘engine’ (or engine oil) of the Noble 8 fold Path, and that by developing this, all the other factors gain momentum. Intuitively I’ve always believed that with Perfect Sila, one would abide in the BVs. Without Sila all the other parts/factors of the path stall. So it seems to me that without Sila as a foundation, focusing on the BVs could not yield such good results. Though I have no sutta evidence to support this view. I would really like to know what The Buddha actually said about this.

It seems that there are a few different approaches towards the BVs. From the position that they are states that naturally arise when defilements and fetters are absent, through to aspects to develop directly through practice.

If someone would be kind enough to explain and highlight suttas that demonstrate this relationship I would be most grateful :pray:

This is another thread that has some useful information FYI Practice of 4 Brahmavihara


#2

Along with renunciation, metta and compassion form two of the components of right thought, the second factor of the path, which is followed by and informs the three sila factors, so they are practical worldly expressions of right thought, which in turn is based on right view.

“The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness. The three are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention: intention governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and intention governed by harmfulness. Each kind of right intention counters the corresponding kind of wrong intention. The intention of renunciation counters the intention of desire, the intention of good will counters the intention of ill will, and the intention of harmlessness counters the intention of harmfulness.Though kama usually means sensual desire, the context seems to allow a wider interpretation, as self-seeking desire in all its forms.

The Buddha discovered this twofold division of thought in the period prior to his Enlightenment (see MN 19). While he was striving for deliverance, meditating in the forest, he found that his thoughts could be distributed into two different classes. In one he put thoughts of desire, ill will, and harmfulness, in the other thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness. Whenever he noticed thoughts of the first kind arise in him, he understood that those thoughts lead to harm for oneself and others, obstruct wisdom, and lead away from Nibbana. Reflecting in this way he expelled such thoughts from his mind and brought them to an end. But whenever thoughts of the second kind arose, he understood those thoughts to be beneficial, conducive to the growth of wisdom, aids to the attainment of Nibbana. Thus he strengthened those thoughts and brought them to completion.

Right intention claims the second place in the path, between right view and the triad of moral factors that begins with right speech, because the mind’s intentional function forms the crucial link connecting our cognitive perspective with our modes of active engagement in the world. On the one side actions always point back to the thoughts from which they spring. Thought is the forerunner of action, directing body and speech, stirring them into activity, using them as its instruments for expressing its aims and ideals. These aims and ideals, our intentions, in turn point back a further step to the prevailing views.”—-“The Noble Eightfold Path,” Bikkhu Bodhi.

To understand further the doctrinal underpinnings, we have to look at right view and see right intention as an extension of that, for example MN 9 describes right view as :

  1. “When, friends, a noble disciple understands the unwholesome, the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome, and the root of the wholesome, in that way he is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true Dhamma.”

#3

:grin: … Read the Mettasutta? :heart:

Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
etc. …


#4

Too funny! :rofl::joy::grin:


#5

Thank you for this important question! :slightly_smiling_face: I will try to give a detailed answer.

First, we may note that the EBTs view ethical conduct as an expression of compassion. Support of this position comes from the Madhyama-āgama parallel to the Karajakāya-sutta, which states that one who kills living beings lacks compassion. This implies that one who abstains from killing living beings thereby acts with compassion. Similarly, refraining from other unwholesome behavior can be an expression of the compassionate wish for others to be free from affliction.

“What are the three types of intentionally performed bodily deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha and that have dukkha as their fruit? Killing living beings is reckoned the first. Someone is supremely bad and blood-thirsty, having the wish to injure and being without compassion for living beings, including insects. (MĀ 15; full translation below)

Similarly, the Sāleyyaka-sutta states that:

And how is principled and moral conduct threefold by way of body? It’s when a certain person gives up killing living creatures. They renounce the rod and the sword. They’re scrupulous and kind, living full of compassion for all living beings. (MN 41)

Right speech can also be an expression of compassion according to the Abhayarājakumāra-sutta:

The Realized One knows the right time to speak so as to explain what he knows to be true, substantive, and beneficial, and which is liked by others. Why is that? Because the Realized One has compassion for sentient beings. (MN 58)

Returning to the Madhyama-āgama parallel to the Karajakāya-sutta (MĀ 15), we learn that the practice of the brahmavihāras needs to be grounded in ethical conduct. Given the importance of this sutta, I have included the full translation below.

Click here to read MĀ 15 (no translation is available at SuttaCentral)

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was dwelling at Sāvatthī, staying in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. At that time, the Blessed One told the mendicants: “If someone performs deeds intentionally, I say that they will inevitably have to experience their fruits, either experiencing them in this life or experiencing them in a later life. If someone performs deeds unintentionally, I say that they will not necessarily have to experience their fruits.

“Herein, three are the types of intentionally performed bodily deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha and that have dukkha as their fruit; four are the types of verbal deeds and three are the types of mental deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha and that have dukkha as their fruit.

“What are the three types of intentionally performed bodily deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha and that have dukkha as their fruit? Killing living beings is reckoned the first. Someone is supremely bad and blood-thirsty, having the wish to injure and being without compassion for living beings, including insects.

“Taking what is not given is reckoned the second. Out of attachment they take the possessions of others with the intention of stealing.

“Sexual misconduct is reckoned the third. They have intercourse with a woman that is protected by her father, or protected by her mother, or protected by both parents, or protected by her sister, or protected by her brother, or protected by her parents-in-law, or protected by relatives, or protected by the clan; or a woman protected by threat of corporal punishment, even one who has been garlanded in token of betrothal.

“These are reckoned the three types of intentionally performed bodily deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha, and that have dukkha as their fruit.

“What are the four types of intentionally performed verbal deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha and that have dukkha as their fruit? Speaking falsehood is reckoned the first. On being questioned in an assembly, or among family members, or in the king’s palace thus: ‘say what you know’, they claim to know what they do not know, or claim not to know what they know; claim to have seen what they have not seen, or claims not to have seen what they saw; they knowingly speak a falsehood either for their own sake or for the sake of others, or for the sake of wealth.

“Divisive speech is reckoned the second. Wishing to divide others, they tell those what they have heard from these, out of a wish to harm these, or else tells these what they have heard from those, out of a wish to harm those. Wishing to divide those who are united, and further to divide those who are already divided, they form factions, delight in the forming of factions and praise the forming of factions.

“Harsh speech is reckoned the third. They employ a type of speech that is rough and rude in tone, which sounds offensive and grates on the ear, that living beings neither enjoy nor desire, which causes others suffering and vexation, and which does not lead to calmness, speaking such type of speech.

“Frivolous talk is reckoned the fourth. They speak at the wrong time, speak what is not true, what is not meaningful, what is contrary to the Dharma, what does not lead to appeasement, and also commends issues that do not lead to appeasement. Disregarding the proper timing, they do not teach or admonish properly.

“These are reckoned the four types of intentionally performed verbal deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha, and that have dukkha as their fruit.

“What are the three types of intentionally performed mental deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha and that have dukkha as their fruit? Covetousness is reckoned the first. On seeing another endowed with wealth and all the necessities of life, they constantly have the wish and desire: ‘May I get it!’

“Irritation and ill will are reckoned the second. With a mind full of dislike and irritation, they have the thought: ‘May those living beings be killed, be bound, be arrested, be removed, and be banished’, having the wish that others experience infinite dukkha.

“Wrong view is reckoned the third. They have a view that is distorted, a view like this, declaring thus: ‘There is no efficacy in giving, there is no efficacy in offerings during a sacrifice, there is no efficacy in reciting hymns during a sacrifice, there are no wholesome and bad deeds, there is no result of wholesome and bad deeds, there is neither this world nor another world, there is no obligation towards one’s father and mother, in the world there are no worthy men who have reached a wholesome attainment, who are well gone and have progressed well, who by their own knowledge and experience abide in having themselves realized this world and the other world.’

“These are reckoned the three types of intentionally performed mental deeds that are unwholesome, that result in the experience of dukkha and that have dukkha as their fruit.

“The learned noble disciple leaves behind unwholesome bodily deeds and develops wholesome bodily deeds, leaves behind unwholesome verbal and mental deeds and develops wholesome verbal and mental deeds. Being endowed with diligence and virtue in this way, having accomplished purity of bodily deeds and purity of verbal and mental deeds, being free from ill will and contention, discarding sloth-and-torpor, being without restlessness or conceit, removing doubt and overcoming arrogance, with right mindfulness and right comprehension, being without bewilderment, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded one direction with a mind imbued with mettā, and in the same way the second, third, and fourth directions, the four intermediate directions, above and below, completely and everywhere. Being without mental shackles, resentment, ill will, or contention, with a mind imbued with mettā that is supremely vast and great, boundless and well developed, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded the entire world.

“Then the learned noble disciple reflects like this: ‘Formerly my mind was narrow and not well developed; now my mind has become boundless and well developed.’

“When the mind of the learned noble disciple has in this way become boundless and well developed, if because of associating with bad friends they formerly dwelled in negligence and performed unwholesome deeds, those deeds cannot lead them along, cannot defile them, and will not come back to meet them.

“Suppose there is a small boy or girl, who since birth is able to dwell in the liberation of the mind through mettā. Later on, would he or she still perform unwholesome deeds by body, speech, or mind?” The mendicants answered: “Certainly not, Blessed One.”

“Why is that? Not performing bad deeds themselves, how could bad deeds arise? Therefore, a man or woman, at home or gone forth, should constantly make an effort to develop liberation of the mind through mettā. If that man or woman, at home or gone forth, develops liberation of the mind through mettā, since when going towards the other world he or she will not take this body along, he or she will proceed just in accordance with the developed quality of their mind.

“Mendicants, you should reflect like this: ‘Formerly I was negligent and performed unwholesome deeds. Let the fruits of these be experienced entirely now, not in a later world.’ If liberation of the mind through mettā has become boundless and well developed like this, certainly non-returning will be attained, or else that which is even higher.

“Again, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded one direction with a mind imbued with compassion, and in the same way the second, third, and fourth directions, the four intermediate directions, above and below, completely and everywhere. Being without mental shackles, resentment, ill will, or contention, with a mind imbued with compassion that is supremely vast and great, boundless and well developed, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded the entire world.

“Then the learned noble disciple reflects like this: ‘Formerly my mind was narrow and not well developed; now my mind has become boundless and well developed.’

“When the mind of the learned noble disciple has in this way become boundless and well developed, if because of associating with bad friends they formerly dwelled in negligence and performed unwholesome deeds, those deeds cannot lead him along, cannot defile them, and will not come back to meet them.

“Suppose there is a small boy or girl, who since birth is able to dwell in the liberation of the mind through compassion. Later on, would he or she still perform unwholesome deeds by body, speech, or mind?” The mendicants answered: “Certainly not, Blessed One.”

“Why is that? Not performing bad deeds themselves, how could bad deeds arise? Therefore, a man or woman, at home or gone forth, should constantly make an effort to develop liberation of the mind through compassion. If that man or woman, at home or gone forth, develops liberation of the mind through compassion, since when going towards the other world he or she will not take this body along, he or she will proceed just in accordance with the developed quality of their mind.

“Mendicants, you should reflect like this: ‘Formerly I was negligent and performed unwholesome deeds. Let the fruits of these be experienced entirely now, not in a later world.’ If liberation of the mind through compassion has become boundless and well developed like this, certainly non-returning will be attained, or else that which is even higher.

“Again, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded one direction with a mind imbued with sympathetic joy, and in the same way the second, third, and fourth directions, the four intermediate directions, above and below, completely and everywhere. Being without mental shackles, resentment, ill will, or contention, with a mind imbued with sympathetic joy that is supremely vast and great, boundless and well developed, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded the entire world.

“Then the learned noble disciple reflects like this: ‘Formerly my mind was narrow and not well developed; now my mind has become boundless and well developed.’

“When the mind of the learned noble disciple has in this way become boundless and well developed, if because of associating with bad friends they formerly dwelled in negligence and performed unwholesome deeds, those deeds cannot lead him along, cannot defile them, and will not come back to meet them.

“Suppose there is a small boy or girl, who since birth is able to dwell in the liberation of the mind through sympathetic joy. Later on, would he or she still perform unwholesome deeds by body,
speech, or mind?” The mendicants answered: “Certainly not, Blessed One.”

“Why is that? Not performing bad deeds themselves, how could bad deeds arise? Therefore, a man or woman, at home or gone forth, should constantly make an effort to develop liberation of the mind through sympathetic joy. If that man or woman, at home or gone forth, develops liberation of the mind through sympathetic joy, since when going towards the other world he or she will not take this body along, he or she will proceed just in accordance with the developed quality of their mind.

“Mendicants, you should reflect like this: ‘Formerly I was negligent and performed unwholesome deeds. Let the fruits of these be experienced entirely now, not in a later world.’ If liberation of the mind through sympathetic joy has become boundless and well developed like this, certainly non-returning will be attained, or else that which is even higher.

“Again, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded one direction with a mind imbued with equanimity, and in the same way the second, third, and fourth directions, the four intermediate directions, above and below, completely and everywhere. Being without mental shackles, resentment, ill will, or contention, with a mind that is supremely vast and great, boundless and well developed, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded the entire world.

“Then the learned noble disciple reflects like this: ‘Formerly my mind was narrow and not well developed; now my mind has become boundless and well developed.

“When the mind of the learned noble disciple has in this way become boundless and well developed, if because of associating with bad friends they formerly dwelled in negligence and performed unwholesome deeds, those deeds cannot lead them along, cannot defile him, and will not come back to meet them.

“Suppose there is a small boy or girl, who since birth is able to dwell in the liberation of the mind through equanimity. Later on, would he or she still perform unwholesome deeds by body, speech, or mind?” The mendicants answered: “Certainly not, Blessed One.”

“Why is that? Not performing bad deeds themselves, how could bad deeds arise? Therefore a man or woman, at home or gone forth, should constantly make an effort to develop liberation of the mind through equanimity. If that man or woman, at home or gone forth, develops liberation of the mind through equanimity, since when going towards the other world he or she will not take this body along, he or she will proceed just in accordance with the developed quality of their mind.

“Mendicants, you should reflect like this: ‘Formerly I was negligent and performed unwholesome deeds. Let the fruits of these be experienced entirely now, not in a later world.’ If liberation of the mind through equanimity has become boundless and well developed like this, certainly non-returning will be attained, or else that which is even higher.”

The Buddha spoke like this. The mendicants, who had listened to what the Buddha said, were delighted and received it respectfully.

– MĀ 15, translated by Anālayo (2015, pp. 170-6), edited for clarity and gender-inclusiveness.**

I think you are absolutely on point here, and the sutta translated above (MĀ 15) supports that. The wholesome conduct by body, speech, and mind enables the overcoming of the hindrances which block successful brahmavihāra practice. Which brings me to the question of spontaneous arising versus intentional cultivation:

As the Madhyama-āgama parallel to the Karajakāya-sutta quite explicitly talks about the cultivation of the divine abodes, it seems to me that the EBTs support the latter approach. Interestingly, the “four objects” method (oneself, a friend, a neutral person, and a hostile person) to cultivating love and compassion stems from the Visuddhimagga rather than from the EBTs (Anālayo 2019). The EBTs talk about developing meditative radiation in all directions.

More generally, ethical conduct lays the foundation for the full spiritual path:

According to the Buddha, careful observance of ethical precepts is the foundation of all higher achievements in the spiritual life. (From the summary of MN 6)

References

  • Anālayo (2015), Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation. (PDF)
  • Anālayo (2019), “Immeasurable Meditations and Mindfulness”. (ePDF)

#6

And I suppose Dependent Liberation also has a bearing on this, in terms of what is necessary but not sufficient in terms of cause and effect.


#7

I also think so. From the Upanisa-sutta, we get the following sequence.

  • Suffering → Faith
  • Faith → Joy
  • Joy → Rapture
  • Rapture → Tranquility
  • Tranquility → Bliss
  • Bliss → Immersion
  • Immersion → Truly knowing and seeing
  • Truly knowing and seeing → Disillusionment
  • Disillusionment → Dispassion
  • Dispassion → Freedom
  • Freedom → Knowledge of ending

Here the arrows (→) indicate a necessary but not sufficient condition. (Do all who suffer obtain faith in the Buddha? Certainly not! But can one really have faith in the Buddha without any experience of suffering? Maybe not.)

One may wonder how ethical conduct fits into this sequence. Luckily for us, Brahmali (2013) points us to a variation of the sequence above:

  • Fulfilling ethics → Not having regrets
  • Not having regrets → Joy
  • Joy → Rapture
  • . . .

As a consequence, another vital condition for joy is having fulfilled ethics.

More generally, if we think in terms of necessary conditions for dwelling in the divine abodes, we might identify those conditions mentioned in MĀ 15:

The learned noble disciple leaves behind unwholesome bodily deeds and develops wholesome bodily deeds, leaves behind unwholesome verbal and mental deeds and develops wholesome verbal and mental deeds. Being endowed with diligence and virtue in this way, having accomplished purity of bodily deeds and purity of verbal and mental deeds, being free from ill will and contention, discarding sloth-and-torpor, being without restlessness or conceit, removing doubt and overcoming arrogance, with right mindfulness and right comprehension, being without bewilderment, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded one direction with a mind imbued with mettā , and in the same way the second, third, and fourth directions, the four intermediate directions, above and below, completely and everywhere. Being without mental shackles, resentment, ill will, or contention, with a mind imbued with mettā that is supremely vast and great, boundless and well developed, the learned noble disciple dwells having pervaded the entire world. (MĀ 15, full translation above)

So we’d have

  • {Purity of bodily, verbal, and mental deeds +
  • diligence +
  • having overcome the five hindrances +
  • overcoming arrogance +
  • right mindfulness [the four kinds of mindfulness meditation!] and right comprehension +
  • being without bewilderment} →
  • boundless love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

A similar list of requirements can also be found in the Kesamutti-sutta and in its Madhyama-āgama parallel:

Then that noble disciple is rid of desire, rid of ill will, unconfused, aware, and mindful. They meditate spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. (AN 3.65)

References

  • Brahmali (2013), Dependent Liberation. (PDF)

#8

Many Thanks @Robbie :pray:

:slight_smile: Dhamma is the greatest gift :slight_smile:


#9

Absolutely! Or you could say that the brahmavihāras, “the divine abidings”, are the expression of perfect sīla.

Exactly. You need to practice the basic sīla before you can reach the higher stages.


#10

Thank you Bhante :pray:

Therefore to summarize, Sila and the Brahmaviharas are directly related. Sila is a necessary condition to be able to abide in the BV’s. Yet to achieve Perfect Sila, one needs to eradicate all defilements - so this is where the work on additional factors of the path comes in, including ‘right thought’ and all the other factors (ie the results of these being the other causes that enable sila to be perfected), and result in abiding in the BV’s.

Would it be correct to say that, while this enables sila to be the natural way to live and abide in the BVs, this is NOT sufficient for awakening, as the realisation of non-self and impermanence are also required. The practices that lead to this are not automatically addressed through the practices of developing Sila. Hence is this reflected by the grouping into 3 areas of the Noble 8 fold path?

Although, if sila is to be developed completely, a person needs to be free from self/identity and any concept of permanence. I think this is still where I am unclear in how the Buddha presented this relationship. Is this because there are so many different inter-relationships and linkages between all the factors, that it depends on which way you choose to look at it? Or perhaps these are practice pathways, depending on character, what individuals choose to focus on. So focusing on one of a number of factors can lead a great distance, if one takes the development of that factor right to the end (because then it by necessity must include realisations from the other factors). However, what I think is clear, is that Sila is a necessary condition in order to have success in any practice at all.

We have not only simple/direct cause and effect but the more subtle areas of influence (indirect) and cumulative impact that creates the ‘momentum’ on the path.

Quite apart from the subtleties of seeing things as they truly are, is it because of this incredibly multi-faceted and subtle inter-connectedness of the teachings one the reasons it is so challenging to teach/comprehend? :slightly_smiling_face:

Too much brain engagement, I’m afraid :joy: but a bit is necessary, if one wants to share the dhamma.


#11

This bit is a little more personal

Of course caring about my family, I’d love to be able to open their eyes a little to the Dhamma.
What I’ve found to be the most influential things so far is not so much any readings I’ve given them, or me re-framing things in terms of the Buddhas teachings, but rather the effect on them by seeing the changes in myself. Living with more sila in everyday life.

I think the fact that they have witnessed such positive changes in their daughter, sister, auntie etc, has had a much more profound effect on them than anything else (stimulation of confidence and faith). Obviously they have no natural inclination towards Buddhism, but seeing and even experiencing the direct effects of sila, has actually opened them up to the path more than anything else.
(I know, metta sutta :wink::smile:)

So one could even say that the very practice of sila makes the world a better place for everybody, and can be the gateway for other beings to take up the path :pray: :smiley:
(added: :thinking: could this be related to the whole Bodhisatva line of thinking?)

I’d love to hear what others think or have experienced :smiley:


#12

Sila here seems referring to the right speech, action, and livelihood. In this connection, the brahma-viharas must also abstain from sexual activity (abrahma-cariyaa ‘non-noble conduct’), which is one of the three practices in the right action. Any view points about this?


#13

The Brahmaviharas are not the same practice of the 8 fold path. Brahmavihara - Wikipedia

But, it seems very similar to the ‘right thought’.


#14

:+1::grin::heart:

In the case of a close relative of mine there is just not the mental capacity any more to understand anything other than the behavior they experience being practiced towards them. And even that is often misinterpreted in the light of their own desperate inner world. So if there is any chance at all to make them understand a glimpse of the Dhamma then it is through lived sila, and also metta and compassion. They go hand in hand.


#15

In the Vattha-sutta, the Buddha teaches the mendicants to overcome the sixteen defilements. After overcoming those, one gains experiential confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. From that, Joy arises, and through the Upanisa-sutta sequence (described in my post above), Immersion. Then one meditates on the divine abodes. It doesn’t seem all that surprising that some degree immersion is conducive to brahmavihāra cultivation; right mindfulness is a prerequisite, and, via the Noble Eightold Path, right mindfulness naturally leads to right immersion. However, as Anālayo (2015) points out, it is unlikely that this immersion would necessarily have to be developed all the way up to the absorptions in order to practice brahmavihāra meditation; lower levels of immersion should suffice.

Again, I think you are exactly right. :slightly_smiling_face: An interesting article in this regard is Anālayo’s “Brahmavihāra and Awakening: A Study of the Dīrgha-āgama Parallel to the Tevijja-sutta” (PDF). From the author’s conclusion:

Drawing together the various strands of my exploration so far in order to arrive at an
assessment of the differing conclusions of the Tevijja-sutta and its parallels, it seems safe to
conclude that in early Buddhist thought neither the jhānas nor the brahmavihāras constitute an
independent path to liberation. At the same time, however, the texts equally clearly highlight
the substantial contribution that the jhānas and/or the brahmavihāras can make to progress to
the final goal.

According to the Aṭṭhakanāgara-sutta, the absorptions and divine abodes can be used as alternate routes to the final goal. In the case of the divine abodes, their radiation should be contemplated as conditioned and therefore subject to cessation (cf. Anālayo 2015, p. 68).

I think so. The way I understand it:

  • Ethics Group + Immersion Group → Absorptions/Divine Abodes
  • Ethics Group + Immersion Group + Absorptions/Divine Abodes → Wisdom Group.
  • Ethics Group + Immersion Group + Absorptions/Divine Abodes + Wisdom Group → Liberation

I still haven’t figured it out, but I suspect that’s a major factor. After a certain number of concepts, it becomes increasingly hard to keep track of all their interrelations.

References

  • Anālayo (2015), Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation

#16

In one sutta in the Digha Nikaya (I am forgetting which one), the Buddha says that in a previous life, he discovered the way to rebirth in the Brahma realm, i.e. 4 Brahmaviharas. However, this did not lead to the ultimate goal of Nibbana. In contrast, in his current lifetime, he discovered the Noble Eightfold Path, which led beyond all realms, including the Brahma realm, to the ultimate goal of Nibbana.

Thus, the latter (the Noble Eightfold Path) was contrasted with and given primacy over the former (the Brahmaviharas).

That being said, both seem to be integral and fundamental parts of the Dhamma-Vinaya.

My initial thought is that it might be more helpful to think of all the various factors mentions within the Dhamma-Vinaya as distinct and independent factors, and not assuming relationships between them unless a relationship between the factors are explicitly stated by the Buddha.

For example, I have not come across any discourse where sila is considered an engine for the N8FP, but I have come across a discourse where right view could be seen as an engine of sorts that leads to arising of the rest of the seven factors of the N8FP:

Bhikkhus, just as the dawn is the forerunner and first indication of the rising of the sun, so is right view the forerunner and first indication of wholesome states.

For one of right view, bhikkhus, right intention springs up.
For one of right intention, right speech springs up.
For one of right speech, right action springs up.
For one of right action, right livelihood springs up.
For one of right livelihood, right effort springs up.
For one of right effort, right mindfulness springs up.
For one of right mindfulness, right concentration springs up.
For one of right concentration, right knowledge springs up.
For one of right knowledge, right deliverance springs up.
Anguttara Nikaya 10:121

Thus, unless relationships between factors are explicitly stated as described above, I think it might help to treat all the factors of the Dhamma-Vinaya as independent and distinct - each seems to merit a suitable degree to attention to be developed to a sufficient degree necessary for the attainment of Nibbana.

Another relationship that can be assumed is that unless all eight factors of the N8FP are included, a course of practice is not sufficient for the attainment of Nibbana - for example, the 4 factors of the Brahmavihara (with or without sila) are not sufficient for the attainment of Nibbana.

Another relationship that I am slightly less sure of than the one I just previously claimed is that all the concepts within the Dhamma-Vinaya as a whole can be contained within the Four Noble Truths and all the practices within the Dhamma-Vinaya as a whole can be contained within the Noble Eightfold Path - or something along these lines.

I find that thinking in terms of the Sila or Brahmaviharas alone to be less sufficient and complete than say the Noble Eightfold Path (“bare minimum” factors necessary to attain Nibbana) or the Dhamma-Vinaya as a whole (“complete” version of what the Buddha taught and trained as being the “full scope” of what is “relevant for” and “conducive to” the attainment of Nibbana).

I hope that this way of thinking helps. :pray:


#17

That could be because sila is contained within the N8fP:


#18

I totally agree!
My point is that it doesn’t seem to be any more of an engine than any of the other factors of the path - the only factor that seemed like it could be interpreted as an engine of sorts seems to be right view in that a sutta seems to explicitly state that it leads to the arising of another factor. But instead of “engine,” the word forerunner seems to have been used, so perhaps forerunner might be a more accurate characterization of right view.

Perhaps another way to see to interpret an “engine” might be the combination of right view, right mindfulness (memory?), and right effort:

“One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one’s right effort.
One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one’s right mindfulness.
Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view.”
Right View: samma ditthi


#20

Yeah I agree….it seems like if any part of the n8fp is foundational, it’s right view.

Another sutta that may be of relevance is AN 9.20, which states that developing the perception of impermanence is more meritorious than a heart of metta, which is more meritorious than observing the precepts….etc., etc.


#21

Please Remember to stick to the Topic.
Related issues can be another thread :slight_smile: