Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sitting-Dhyaana: The Four Realisations

Having nothing to do with emotional longings
or with practices that are tainted,

But having to do with reason
and methodical investigation,

Born of discernment and possessed of joy and ease,

Is the first realisation, to which he then came.

The burning fire of longing released him,

And the ease that came with the realisation
caused him to feel sublime refreshment,

Like the pleasure of a heat-exhausted man
diving into water.

Again, he was like a deprived person
finding something of great value.

At this level, though, thoughts about one’s practice

And investigations into what is or is not good,

Are causes of mental agitation;
they are not inhibitory, on seeing which,

He decided to cut loose from all that.

For, just as waves induce rippling

Upon a river bearing calm, clear water,

So too do thought waves, upon unitary awareness.

It is thoughts that cause ripples
upon the water of the thinking mind.

When a weary man, lain down to sleep,
has gone out like a light,

Just as noises cause bother to him,

To one experiencing inner unity,

Thoughts, similarly, are bothersome.

So gradually dropping thought and deliberation,

Mind calm and clear, because of unity of purpose,

He realised a second level of joy and ease, born of balance:

He realised that realisation which is inner well-being.

And after coming to that realisation
in which the thinking mind is silent,

He experienced a joy deeper than he had ever felt.

But he also found a fault here, in joy,

Just as he had in thoughts.

For when a man finds extreme joy in something,

Paradoxically, suffering for him is right there.

So seeing the pitfalls there, in joy,

He carried on upward with practice directed beyond joy.

The ease enjoyed by the noble ones,
from non-attachment to joy,

He then knew fully, through experience, with his body.

Going well, he remained indifferent, mindful,

And, having gained the third realisation, steady.

Since the ease here is greater than any other ease,

There is no progression of ease beyond it.

Therefore it was called
the condition of resplendent wholeness.

The knower of the superior and the inferior
called it superlative,
in a friendly kind of way.

Then, even at this level of realisation,
he found a fault:

He understood the ultimate to be quieted,
without any movement at all,

Whereas his mind was moving cyclically

And, due to the circular progression of ease,

Wherever there is a flicker of emotion,
mental activity is going on in there,

And wherever mental activity is going on
there is suffering,

Which is why, insofar as ease is emotive,

Strivers who wish for quiet give up that ease.

Then, because he had let go of ease and difficulty

And of mind-work, which now belonged to the past,

He realised a lucidity
in which he was indifferent and fully conscious:

Such, beyond suffering and happiness,
is the fourth realisation.

Since in this there is neither happiness nor suffering,

And the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,

Therefore utter lucidity
through equanimity and mindfulness

Is specified in the protocol for the fourth realisation.

Consequently, with the backing of the fourth realisation,

He made up his mind to win the worthy state,

Like a king joining forces with a strong and noble ally

And then aspiring to conquer unconquered lands.


Plato said...

Hi Mike!
As I understand it the main difference between the first and second realsation, is the abandoning of thought. This could mean abandoning thoughts like "I wish my neck to be free, to allow the head to go forward and up etc"
During sitting does this happen spontaneously? Do we cultivate it? How do we know that we just started to rely on feeling again, instead of really abandoning thinking?
Thank you for your efforts!
By reading Ashvagosha, I realise why I choose to follow the Buddha's Way of Awakening!

Mike Cross said...

Hi Plato!

I think there is no question about it: "I wish my neck to be free; to allow the head to go forward and up; to let the back lengthen and widen; to let the legs release out of the pelvis, etc" are precisely the sort of thoughts to be abandoned in coming to the second realisation. But before coming to the second realisation, we have to come to the first realisation. And coming to the first realisation, as opposed to just blind bodily sitting, requires us to give up the kind of emotional clinging/endgaining associated with immature infantile fear reflexes.

So it may be rather risky for you and I, good Plato, ever to take the first realisation as read.

You write "how do we know that we just started to rely on feeling again?" But the question presuppposes that we ever had a moment in our life in which we didn't rely on feeling.

Forgive me, Plato, but I am skeptical about that!

Anyway, many thanks for your encouragement. I feel the same way you do about reading Ashvaghosha. Now I am preparing the first few verses in Canto 16, and some of them just translate themselves brilliantly. For example, here is a sneak preview of 16.10, which I have been working on this morning:

The manifold misfortunes of the living, such as growing old,

Continue to occur, to tell the truth, as long as end-gaining goes on.

For even when violent winds blow,

Trees do not shake that never sprouted.

Raymond said...


This joining together of the text is valuable towards appreciating the dynamics of the stages associated with the noble path. Thank you for your efforts. They are appreciated.


Mike Cross said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Raymond.

The gold is in the bold!