Friday, May 22, 2009
Canto 16: Exposition of the Noble Truths
"Thus, methodically, through mental self-possession,
Cutting something out and connecting something in,
The practitioner makes the four realisations his own,
And duly acquires the fivefold power of knowing:
The principal psychic power, taking many forms;
Then being awake to what others are thinking;
And remembering past lives from long ago;
And divine lucidity of ear; and of eye.
From then on, through investigation of what is,
He applies his mind to stopping off energy leaks,
For on this basis, fully, suffering and the rest --
The four truths -- are understood as fundamental steps:
This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble;
This is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it;
This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away.
And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path.
Understanding these noble truths,
by a process of reasoning
While getting to know the four as one,
He contains all leaks,
through the means of directed thought,
And, on finding peace,
is no longer subject to becoming.
For by failing to wake up and come round
To this four, whose substance is what is,
Mankind goes from existence to existence
without finding peace --
The world is hoisted in the swing
of mass unconscious reaction.
Therefore, at the root of a tragedy like growing old
See, in short, that birth is suffering.
For, as the earth supports the life of all plants,
This birth is the field of all troubles.
The birth of a sentient bodily form, again,
Is the birth of suffering in all its varieties;
And he who begets such an outgrowth
Is the begetter of death and of disease.
Good food or bad food, if mixed with poison,
Makes for ruin not for sustenance.
Likewise, whether in a world on the flat
or above or below,
All birth makes for hardship not for ease.
The many and various disappointments of men,
like old age,
Occur only as long as the cycle of doing continues;
For even when violent winds blow,
Trees do not shake that never sprouted.
As wind is born from the air,
As fire sleeps in the womb of shami wood,
And as water gestates inside the earth,
So suffering is born from an expectant mind-body.
Fluidity of water, solidity of earth,
Motion of wind, and constant heat of fire,
Are innate in them; as also it is in the nature
Of both the body and the mind to suffer.
Insofar as there is a body,
there is the suffering of sickness, aging and the like;
And also of hunger and thirst,
and of the rains, and summer heat and winter cold.
Insofar as a mind is bonded, tied to phenomena,
There is the suffering of grief, discontent, anger, fear
and so on.
Seeing now before your eyes that birth is suffering,
Recognise that likewise in the past it was suffering.
And just as that was suffering and this is suffering,
Know that likewise in the future it will be suffering.
For just as it is evident to us now
what kind of thing a seed is,
We can infer that it was so in the past
and that it will be so in the future.
And just as fire burning before us is hot,
So was it and so will it be, hot.
In conformity with its kind, then,
a distinguishable bodily form
Develops, wherein, O man of noble conduct,
Suffering exists, right there -- for nowhere else
Will suffering exist or has it existed or could it exist.
And this suffering,
associated with continual doing in the world,
Has its cause in a cluster of faults
which start with thirsting --
Certainly not in God,
nor in primordial matter, nor in time;
Nor even in one’s inherent constitution,
and not in predestination or self-will.
Again, you must understand how, due to this cause,
Because of men's faults, the cycle of doing continues
So that those imbued with redness and darkness
succumb to death.
He is not reborn who is without redness and darkness.
Only insofar as the specific intention exists
to do this or that,
Does an action like going or sitting happen;
Hence, in just the same way,
by the force of their thirsting
Living creatures are reborn -- as is to be observed:
See sentient beings in the grip of attachment,
Dead set on pleasure among their own kind;
And, from their habitual practice of faults,
Observe them presenting with those very faults.
Just as the anger, lust, and so on
of sufferers of those afflictions
Give rise in the present to a personality trait,
So too in new lives, in various manifestations,
Does the affliction-created trait develop:
In a life dominated by anger arises violent anger,
In the lover of passion arises burning passion,
And in the predominantly ignorant,
In one who has a lesser fault, again,
the lesser fault develops.
Seeing what fruit is before one's eyes,
One knows, from past knowledge of that fruit,
the seed it was in the past.
And having identified a seed before one's eyes,
One knows the fruit it may be in the future.
In whichever realms of existence a man has ended faults,
Thanks to that dispassion he is not born in those realms.
Wherever he remains susceptible to a fault,
That is where he makes his appearance,
whether he likes it or not.
So my friend,
with regard to the many forms of becoming,
Know their causes to be [the faults]
that start with thirsting
And cut out those [faults],
if you wish to be freed from suffering;
For ending of the effect
follows from eradication of the cause.
Again, the ending of suffering
follows from the disappearance of its cause.
Experience that reality for yourself
as peace and well-being,
A place of rest, a cessation,
an absence of the red taint of thirsting,
An eternal refuge which is irremovable and noble,
In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying,
No illnesses, no being touched by unpleasantness,
No disappointment, or separation from what is pleasant:
It is a fundamental step -- ultimate and indestructible.
A lamp that has gone out
Reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky,
Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point:
Because its oil is spent it reaches nothing but extinction.
In the same way,
a man of action who has come to quiet
Reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky,
Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point:
From the ending of his afflictions
he attains nothing but extinction.
A means of gaining that end is a path
Of threefold wisdom and twofold peace.
It should be cultivated, working to principle,
by a wakener of consciousness
Who abides in the purity of threefold integrity.
Using the voice and using the body well
And making one's living in a pure and suitable manner:
These three, forming the protocol on conduct,
Are for the mastery, based on integrity, of one's actions.
Nobility of insight into the truths,
beginning with the truth of suffering,
Along with thinking straight, and initiative:
These three, forming the protocol on knowing,
Are for dissolution, based on wisdom, of afflictions.
Harnessed methodically so as to lead one to the truth
Is true mindfulness, which goes with true balance:
These two, forming the protocol on formal practice,
Are for mastery, based on peace, of the thinking mind.
Integrity causes the shoots of affliction not to flourish,
Like the shoots of a seed whose season has passed.
The faults, as long as a man's integrity is untainted,
Venture only timidly to attack his mind.
Then balance repels afflictions
Like a mountain the mighty torrents of rivers;
For, as long as a man remains in balance,
faults do not venture to attack him:
The faults, like charmed snakes, are spellbound.
But wisdom destroys faults without trace,
Like a mountain stream in the monsoon
mowing down trees on its banks.
Faults burnt up by it stand not a chance,
Like trees struck and burnt by a thunderbolt.
Giving oneself to this path with its three divisions
And eight branches
-- this straightforward, irremovable, noble path --
One abandons the faults,
which are the causes of suffering,
And comes to that step which is total well-being.
Attendant on it are constancy and straightness;
Modesty, caution, and reclusiveness;
Wanting little, contentment,
and freedom from alliances;
No fondness for the continual doing of the world;
For he who knows suffering as it really is,
Who knows its starting and its stopping:
It is he who reaches peace by the noble path --
Going along with friends in the good.
He who fully appreciates his illness,
as the illness it is,
Who sees the cause of the illness
and its remedy:
It is he who wins, before long,
freedom from disease --
Attended by friends in the know.
So with regard to the truth of suffering,
see suffering as a disease;
With regard to the faults,
see the faults as causes of disease;
With regard to the truth of stopping,
see stopping as freedom from disease;
And with regard to the truth of a path,
see a path as a remedy.
Then comprehend suffering as doing,
And know the faults as causes of its continuance.
Realise stopping as non-doing,
And know the path as a turning back.
Though your head and clothes be on fire
Direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths.
For in failing to see the purport of the truths,
the world has burned,
It is burning now, and it will burn.
When a man sees a separate bodily form
As decrepit, that insight of his is accurate;
In seeing accurately he is disenchanted
And his optimism ends,
as a result of which redness fades away.
By the ending of the duality
which is optimism and pessimism,
I submit, his mind is fully set free.
And when his mind is fully liberated from that duality,
There is nothing further for him to do
For in him who sees a separate bodily form as it is,
And who sees its origin and passing away,
From the very fact of his knowing and seeing,
I predict the complete stopping of energy leaks.
So my friend garner your energy greatly
And strive quickly to stop off leaks,
Examining in detail
-- as suffering and impermanent and devoid of self --
For in knowing the six elements
of earth, water, fire and the rest,
Generically, and each as specific to itself,
He who knows nothing else but them,
Knows total release from them.
One set on giving up the afflictions, then,
Should attend to timing and method;
For even formal practice,
done at the wrong time and relying on wrong means,
Makes for disappointment and not for the desired end.
If a cow is milked before her calf is born,
Milking at the wrong time will yield no milk.
Or even at the right time no milk will be got
If, through ignorance, a cow is milked by the horn.
Again, one who wants fire from damp wood,
Try as he might, will not get fire.
And even if he lays down dry wood,
He won't get fire from that, with bad bushcraft.
Having given due consideration to the time and place
As well as to the extent and method
of one's formal practice,
One should, being constantly aware
of one's own strength and weakness,
Persist in an effort that is not inconsistent with them.
A "garnering" stimulus
Does not serve when the emotions are excited,
For thus the mind does not find peace
Like [- - - ] a fire being fanned.
A stimulus one has ascertained to be calming
Has its time when one's mind is excited;
For thus the mind subsides into quietness,
Like a blazing fire doused with water.
The stimulus ascertained to bring calm
Does not serve when one's mind is dormant;
For thus the mind sinks further into lifelessness,
Like a feeble fire left unfanned.
A stimulus ascertained to be garnering,
Has its time when one's mind is lifeless,
For thus the mind becomes fit for work,
Like a feebly-burning fire plied with fuel.
Nor is leaving oneself alone a valid starting point
When one's mind is either lifeless or excited.
For that might result in severe misfortune,
Like the neglected illness of a sick man.
What one has ascertained to be
a starting point of not interfering,
Has its time when one's mind is in its normal state;
For thus one can set about the work to be done,
Like a wagon setting off with well-trained horses.
Again, when the mind is muddled by lust,
The principle of directing love towards oneself
is not to be applied;
For a passionate type is stupefied by love,
Like a sufferer from phlegm taking oil.
Steadiness lies, when one's mind is stirred up by lust,
In coming back to a disagreeable stimulus;
For thus a passionate type obtains relief,
Like a phlegmatic type taking an astringent.
When a mind is wound up, however,
with the fault of ill-will,
A disagreeable stimulus is not to be dwelt upon;
For unpleasantness is destructive to a hating type,
As acid treatment is to a bilious type.
When the mind is agitated by the fault of ill-will,
Love should be practised, through self-acceptance;
For love is calming to a hate-afflicted soul,
As cooling treatment is to a man of bilious nature.
Where there is wandering of the mind, tied to delusion,
Both love and unpleasantness are unsuitable,
For a deluded man is further deluded by these two,
Like a windy type given an astringent.
When the working of one's mind
is dominated by delusion,
One should appreciate the causality
which this is;
For herein lies a path to peace
for a deluded mind,
Like treatment with oil
for a patient with a wind condition.
Holding gold in the mouth of a furnace,
A goldsmith in this world blows it at the proper time,
Douses it with water at the proper time,
And gradually, at the proper time, he leaves it be.
For he might burn the gold
by blowing at the wrong time,
He might make it unworkable
by plunging it into water at the wrong time,
And he would not bring it to full perfection
If at the wrong time he were just to leave it be.
Likewise, for garnering as also for calming,
As also when appropriate for leaving well alone,
One should consciously attend to the proper stimulus;
Because even diligence is destructive
when accompanied by a wrong approach."
Thus, on retreat from muddling through
And on the principle to come back to,
the One Who Went Well spoke to him;
And from his knowledge of specific practices,
He instructed him further on cutting out thoughts.
Just as a physician,
for a disorder of bile, phlegm, or wind,
-- For whatever disorder of the humours
has manifested the symptoms of disease --
Prescribes a course of treatment
to cure that very disorder,
So did the Buddha prescribe for the faults:
“It may not be possible,
following a single method, to destroy
Unlovely thoughts that habit has so deeply entrenched;
In that case, commit to a second course
But never give up the practice and its merits.
Because of the instinct-led accumulation,
from time without beginning,
Of the powerful mass of afflictions,
And because true practice is so difficult to do,
The faults cannot be cut off all at once.
Just as a deep splinter,
by means of the point of another sharp object,
Is removed by a man skilled in that task,
Likewise an unfavourable stimulus
May be despatched through the use of a different stimulus.
Even then, stemming from inexperience within the self,
A disagreeable thought might still not subside.
One should abandon the thought
by monitoring the fault therein,
As a traveller abandons a path
on which there is a wild beast.
Even a starving man when given poisoned food
Refuses to eat it, wishing to live.
Likewise, observing that it triggers a fault,
A wise person leaves alone a noxious stimulus.
When a man does not see a fault as a fault,
Who is able to restrain him from it?
But when a man sees the good in what is good,
He goes towards it despite being restrained.
For those brought up well are ashamed
Of continued impure workings of the mind,
Like one who is bright, young and good-looking
With ugly, scruffy things hung around his neck.
If, though they are being shaken off,
There is any lingering trace of unhelpful thoughts,
One should get on with something else,
such as study or a physical task,
As a means of consigning those thoughts to oblivion.
A clear-sighted person should even sleep
Or resort to physical exhaustion,
But should never dwell on a bad stimulus
The reaction to which would be adverse.
For just as a man afraid of thieves in the night
Would not open his door even to friends,
So does a wise man withhold consent to the doing
Of anything bad or of anything good
that involves the faults.
Even if held off by such means
Faults might not turn back:
In that case, forcibly remove them,
in the order of their grossness,
As if ridding gold of impurities.
Activities like quick marching
Are a refuge to a man who feels depressed
following a torrid love affair:
Just as that man relies on those activities,
So does a wise person deal with the faults.
When it is impossible to realise their opposite side,
In which case unreal thoughts might not fade away,
They must not for a moment be left unchecked:
No whiff of them should be tolerated,
as if they were snakes in the house.
Grit tooth against tooth, if you will,
Press the tongue forward and up against the palate,
And grip the mind with the mind --
Keep on trying as you might, they are not compliant.
Would it be any wonder if one without illusions,
Who had retired full of devotion to the forest,
did not waver?
But a man who,
when challenged to the core by those stimuli,
Is not shaken:
he is a true man of action; he is a steadfast man.
So, in order to make the noble truths your own,
First clear a path along these lines,
Like a king going on campaign to subdue his foes,
Wishing to conquer unconquered riches.
These salubrious wilds that surround us
Are suited to practice and not thronged with people.
Having furnished the body with ample solitude,
Cut a path to abandon afflictions.
Kaundinya, Nanda, Krimila, Aniruddha,
Tishya, Upasena, Vimala and Radha,
Vashpa, Uttara, Dhautaki, Moha-raja,
Katyayana, Dravya, Pilinda-vatsa,
Bhaddali, Bhadrayana, Sarpa-dasa,
Subhuti, Go-datta, Sujata, Vatsa,
Sangramajit, Bhadrajit, and Ashvajit,
Shrona and Shona Kotikarna,
Kshema, Ajita, the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda,
Upali, Vagisha, Yashas, Yashoda,
Mahahvaya, Valkalin, Rashtra-pala,
Sudarshana, Svagata and Meghika,
Kapphina, Kashyapa of Uruvilva,
The great Maha-kashyapa, Tishya, Nanda,
Purna and Purna as well as Purnaka
And Purna Shonaparanta,
The son of Sharadvati, Subahu, Chunda,
Kondeya, Kapya, Bhrigu, Kuntha-dhana,
Plus Shaivala, Revata and Kaushthila,
And he of the Maudgalya clan and Gavam-pati --
The prowess they have shown
with regard to the principle of practice,
Be quick to do the same, working to principle.
Then your realisation of the step that they took,
And of the splendour that adorns those ease-filled ones,
will be assured.
Just as the flesh of a fruit may be bitter to the taste
And yet it is sweet when eaten ripe,
So direction of energy,
through the struggle it involves, is bitter
And yet, in accomplishment of the aim,
its mature fruit is sweet.
Directed energy is paramount:
for, in doing what needs to be done, it is the foundation;
Without directed energy there is no accomplishment at all;
All success in this world arises from directed energy --
And in the absence of directed energy wrongdoing is rampant.
No gaining of what is yet to be gained,
and certain loss of what has been gained,
Along with low self-esteem, wretchedness,
the scorn of superiors,
Darkness, lack of spirit, and the breakdown
of learning, restraint and contentment:
For men without directed energy a great fall awaits.
When a capable person hears the guiding principle
but makes no progress,
When he knows the most excellent method
but gains no upward repose,
When he leaves home
but in freedom finds no peace:
The cause is the laziness in him,
and not an enemy.
A man obtains water if he digs the ground
with dogged perseverance,
And produces fire from fire-sticks
by continuous twirling.
But those are sure to reap the fruit of their effort
whose energies are harnessed to practice,
For rivers that flow swiftly and constantly
cut through even a mountain.
After ploughing and protecting the soil with great pains,
a farmer gains a bounteous crop of corn;
After striving to plumb the ocean's waters,
a diver basks in a bounty of coral and pearls;
After seeing off with arrows the endeavour of rival kings,
a king enjoys royal dominion.
So direct your energy in pursuit of peace,
for in directed energy lies all growth."
End of the 16th Canto of the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Exposition of the Noble Truths."