NLD MP begs forgiveness of monks for his writings on Facebook


In a story published by Eleven Media it is reported that Lower House National League for Democracy MP Min Thu has apologised  to members of the Burmese Buddhist Sangha for remarks that he made on his Facebook page. He had posted the story ‘Nay Pyi Taw, where some monks are meddling in the situation’ It claimed that monks from Yamethin, Ottara and Dekkhina Districts had been taken to Naypyidaw by car to a ceremony in support of anti-interracial marriage law at Uppatasanti Pagoda.

‘The Sayadaw secretary from Yamethin Township, the Sangha Maha Nayaka committee, and the Sayadaw chairperson from Lewe Township were being led by the nose…Under the pretext of anti-Islamism, some monks did not understand that the movements are intended to oppose the NLD and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. And it seemed that they became like the Ayatollah, the late Iranian religious leader that they don’t like. This [celebration] was timed to coincide with a plan to remove monasteries by using forest laws’ claimed Min Thu in his Facebook post.

In his apology he asked for forgiveness for his comments ‘that undermined the dignity of Sangha members and were an affront to parents, elders and teachers, and even his own belief in Buddhism.’ He added that ‘I made such an apology because of my belief in Buddhism. It came from my own religious conviction.’

In a separate development President Thein Sein expressed his support for laws banning marriage between Buddhist women and non-Buddhist men.

This is one of four laws being drafted by the Organisation for Protection of Nation, Race and Religion (OPNRR): the Faith Conversion Bill; the Marriage Bill, the Monogamy Law; and the Population Control Law.

‘The interfaith marriage bill, if enacted, would mean a non-Buddhist man who wants to marry a Buddhist must convert to her faith, or face a 10-year jail sentence.

The text would not apply restrictions to marriages between Buddhist men and non-Buddhist women.

The draft laws could be presented to parliament for a vote as early as next month.’

Towards Engaged Buddhist political activity


There is something of a dilemma at the heart of any Buddhist attempt at social and political engagement. The basis of this is that in venturing to find the causes of suffering in social and political structures one is involving oneself in (and potentially becoming entangled in) suffering itself. Some would therefore argue that Buddhism has no political and social message. It is a world renouncing ascetic tradition. There are many complex issues at stake here and, having taught university courses on Engaged Buddhism a number of times I am aware that to answer the question of whether Buddhism originally had a social message or not is in many ways misleading. What is less misleading is to consider that those who do make use of Buddhist teachings in a social and political way should be aware of the complexity and potential philosophical precipices as they strive to use Buddhist ideas to change the world. In attempting to move the focus from the adaptation and exploration of the mind to the adaptation of the world the engaged Buddhist should be mindful of the focus of Buddhist thinking in certain key areas.

The Nettippakaraṇa quotes the Udāna 81: ‘The supported is liable to dislodgement; the unsupported is not liable to dislodgement’.[1] It uses this statement to suggest how one should respond to the world. It first explains that there are two kinds of support: there is ‘support by craving, and support by view’.[2] Any choice (cetanā) of one who is lusting (rattassa), is support by craving (taṇhā-nissayo), and any choice by one who is ‘confused’ (mūḷhassa), is ‘support by views’ (diṭṭhi-nissayo). The text then states that the act of choice or volition (cetanā) leads to involvement, and this is a ‘formation’ (cetanā pana saṃkhārā). This is then used to suggest that one who lusts or holds on to view is involved in the process of dependent-origination. The text gives a version of dependent-origination based upon volitional formations, i.e. with volitional formations as condition there is consciousness, etc., sorrow, lamentation, despair and suffering.[3] This negative outcome of holding to views is familiar to us. The Nettippakaraṇa explains that both those who hold views and those who lust and crave are involved in the same process, that of dependently-originated dhammas. Involvement with these dhammas leads to dukkha.

The Nettippakaraṇa next describes how there is escape from this cycle. When there is no liability to dislodgement, there is tranquillity; when there is tranquillity, there is no inclination (nati),[4] when there is no inclination, there is no coming and going; when there is no coming and going, there is no decease and reappearance; when there is no decease and reappearance, there is no here, beyond or in between, and this is the end of suffering.[5] This is the escape from dukkha. The text explains that the unsupported is not liable to dislodgement because it is ‘unsupported by craving by virtue of calm’,[6] and ‘unsupported by views by virtue of insight’.[7] It states that: ‘insight is knowledge and with its arising there is the cessation of ignorance’,[8] and so on through the cessation of the chain of dependent-origination.[9]

The unwholesome process begins with choice or volition (cetanā), for both lust and views: objects of the senses and cognition. This gives rise to volitional formations (saṃkhārā), and to dukkha. The wholesome process begins with a turning away from objects of sense and cognition, through calm (samatha) and insight (vipassanā) which abandons ignorance and the chain of dependent-origination leading to dukkha. The Nettippakaraṇa is explaining in clear terms that the holding of views is part of the very process of dukkha.

In this discussion one might like to consider a similar process in the form of the right-view of Anāthapiṇḍika. This view is the following:

‘Whatever has become is put together, is thought out, is dependent on something else, that is impermanent. What is impermanent, that is dukkha, what is dukkha: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’.’[10]

It is the cessation of craving, essential for apprehending this process, which the texts describe as ‘right-view’ (sammā-diṭṭhi). The Nettippakaraṇa makes this clear by suggesting that the very holding of a view is a cetanā and this is a saṃkhāra. View is, as it were, implicated in the whole process of dependent-origination. I would argue that it is not just micchā-diṭṭhi that is implicated, but sammā-diṭṭhi is also likely to be a cetanā and a saṃkhāra, and part of the process of dukkha. In the Nettippakaraṇa passage the text is, in one sense, making a distinction about the nature of the view that ‘corrects’ micchā-diṭṭhi which, in fact, corrects diṭṭhi. It corrects all views, in the sense that any view is an object of attachment. In the language of the Nettippakaraṇa, a view cannot be ‘liable to dislodgement’ (calitaṃ natthi). It is the view that is ‘not supported by views’ (diṭṭhiyā anissito) in virtue of insight (vipassanā-vasena). Right-view transcends all views.

Where there are no views there is ‘no here, beyond or in between’. This is the wholesome course of action. Wrong-view is the opposite to this. It is involved, it gives rise to volitional formations, consciousness, name and form, feelings, craving attachment and suffering. Wrong-view is always associated with greed. It is implicated in the process of giving rise to unwholesome actions. As such it leads away from insight, from right-view.

As can be seen from these passages, from a philosophical standpoint meaningful social and political action must be based upon a quite specific mental attitude. This attitude is one free from greed hatred and delusion. It is free from a foundation ensnared by a particularly firm adherence to a specific standpoint. It is free from a particularly strong sense that one holds to a particular mental bias. One could suggest that for these reasons Buddhists have concentrated on the adaptation of the mind and not on changing the world. However, in working out a Buddhist social theory the ideas being outlined here must be part of what is considered for a model of Buddhist social and political activity. Social and political action must in itself be part of a wholesome (kusala) process of body, speech and mind. It must begin by being free from adherence and attachment. Buddhist political activity must itself display those qualities it aims to achieve in society – selflessness, dispassion, the overcoming of suffering, a lack of craving and attachment. Buddhist theories of meditation are adept at describing these processes and abilities, these disciplines and mental activities. For Buddhist social and political engagement to be a realistic activity these ideas need to move beyond the mind and into the world.

[1] nissitassa calitaṃ anissitassa calitaṃ n’ atthi, Nett 65.

[2] nissayo nāma duvidho: taṇahānissayo diṭṭhi-nissayo ca, Nett 65.

[3] saṃkhāra-paccayā viññāṇaṃ, viññāṇa-paccayā nāmarūpaṃ, nāmarūpa-paccayā saḷāyatanaṃ, saḷāyatana-paccayā phasso, phassa-paccayā vedanā, vedanā-paccayā taṇhā, taṇhā-paccayā upādāna, upādāna-paccayā bhavo, bhava-paccayā jāti, jāti-paccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ, sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti, evam etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti, Nett 65.

[4] I am translating the term nati as ‘inclination’. To have an inclination is a subtle craving and need, the opposite to tranquillity. See a comparable passage at S II 67 which reads: tasmiṃ patiṭṭhite viññāṇe virūḷhe nati hoti. natiyā sati āgatigati hoti. āgatigatiyā sati cutūpapāto hoti.

[5] passaddhiyā sati nati na hoti, natiyā asati āgati-gati na hoti, āgatigatiyā asati cutūpapāto na hoti, cutūpapāte asati nev’ idha na huraṃ na ubhayam antarena es’ ev’ anto dukkhassā, Nett 65.

[6] samathavasena vā taṇhāya anissito.

[7] vipassanāvasena vā diṭṭhiyā anissito, Nett 65.

[8] vipassanā ayaṃ vijjā vijjuppādā avijjānirodho.

[9] avijjā-nirodhā saṃkhāra-nirodho, saṃkhāra-nirodhā viññāṇa-nirodho, viññāṇa-nirodhā nāmarūpa-nirodho, nāmarūpa-nirodhā saḷāyatana-nirodho saḷāyatana-nirodhā phassa-nirodho, phassa-nirodhā vedanā-nirodho, vedanā-nirodhā taṇhā-nirodho, taṇhā-nirodhā upādāna-nirodho, upādāna-nirodhā bhava-nirodho, bhava-nirodhā jāti-nirodho, jāti-nirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomansūpāyāsā nirujjhanti, evam etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti, Nett 65-66.

[10] yaṃ kho pana kiñci bhūtaṃ saṃkhataṃ cetayitaṃ paṭiccasamuppannaṃ, tad aniccaṃ yad aniccaṃ taṃ dukkham, yaṃ dukkham, tam n’ etaṃ mama n’ eso ‘ham asmi na me so attā ti, A V 188.

Hundreds attend rally in support of inter-faith marriage ban


As reported in Mizzima News a rally was held in Naypyidaw supporting the draft law which aims to ban inter-faith marriage between Buddhist women and non-Buddhist men. It was organised by the ‘Myanmar Organization for the Protection of Nation and Religion’.

The draft law states that ‘a non-Buddhist man who wants to marry a Buddhist woman must first convert to Buddhism’ and that ‘any non-Buddhist man who fails to comply with the law to be liable to 10 years’ imprisonment.’

U Wirathu was reported a commenting that without such a law there would be no security for the Myanmar race and Buddhism.

U Wirathu on amending the Burmese constitution

As reported by Khun Ba Thar in the Democratic Voice of Burma with the headline ‘Amending 59(f) will allow foreigners to exploit ‘simple’ Burmese, says Wirathu’, U Wirathu was interviewed by Win Tin, a veteran of the National League for Democracy. In discussing the controversial Article 59(f) which prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi becoming president due to her two children being UK citizens. U Wirathu states that:

‘I too wish to see Article 59(f) amended — I am absolutely in support of [Suu Kyi]…But it will ultimately allow those who are not ethnic nationalities to exploit the Burmese people who are simple and naïve. Our people are not ready for this kind of deceit — they don’t have high enough intelligence.’

He goes on to suggest that a better role for Aung San Suu Kyi would be as a ‘ringleader’ who could influence the president.

Myanmar’s Religious Violence: A Buddhist ‘Siege Mentality’ At Work


An excellent article by Kyaw San Wai in the eurasiareview.

It’s very much an insider’s analysis, as he states:

‘The root causes for the violence by Burmese Buddhists against Muslims in Myanmar are complex. Contrary to the simplified narratives carried by the international media, a nuanced understanding of the situation is needed to attain a viable solution.’

Though these could be considered harsh sentiments about non-Burmese media, his points are well made. He suggests that the standard narratives describing the violence and discrimination are valid he goes onto suggest that there is a ‘long standing siege mentality of the Burmese populace drawing on Buddhist millenarianism and a sense of demographic besiegement.’

He goes on to describe this proposed Buddhist millenarianism:

‘Among Burmese Buddhists, there is a widespread belief that Buddhism will disappear in the future. While international coverage points to Myanmar’s religious demographics to discredit fears of Islamic encroachment, Burmese Buddhists have a starkly different world view where their faith is besieged by larger, well-endowed and better-organised faiths. This millenarianism can be traced to a scripturally unsupported but widely believed ‘prophecy’ that Buddhism will disappear 5000 years after the Buddha’s passing. As 1956 is considered the halfway point, the belief is that Buddhism is now declining irreversibly.’

He highlights the role of colonialism in creating the juncture between State and Sangha culminating in the 1930s Saya San rebellion. Added to this is what he describes as ‘demographic besiegement’ in which ‘most Burmese are well aware of the fact that Myanmar borders the populous countries of China, India and Bangladesh, with a combined population of over 2.7 billion.’ This gives rise to what he describes as ‘a new siege mentality’:

‘As coverage of Myanmar’s religious violence proliferated, there is a growing perception within Myanmar that the international community and media only concern themselves with the Rohingyas’ version of events while neglecting the Burmese Buddhist perspective, save perhaps the spotlight given to Wirathu and the 969 Movement which he represents. Even then, it is done primarily to discredit Burmese views.’

His suggestions are well taken and simply implores for a more subtle and intricate understanding of the religious and Nationalistic factors at play in Burma:

‘Although many aspects of this siege mentality stem from sensationalism and paranoia stoked by nationalists and radical monks, the situation warrants a more nuanced understanding rather than being summarily dismissed. Factors including historical sentiments, lack of journalistic access, activist journalism and a hyper-active rumour mill, also need to be considered to better comprehend and address the siege mentality.

However, some commentators are quick to dismiss the Buddhist siege mentality as based solely on overhyped paranoia or as the Burmese military’s creation to cement its praetorian role in politics. A flippantly dismissive view of the Burmese siege mentality and the simplified portrayals of the sectarian violence only serve to misdiagnose the root causes and make a viable solution more elusive.

This does not mean legitimising the nationalists’ fear-mongering, justifying violence against anybody or leaving widespread institutionalised racial and religious prejudice unattended. Rather, it means that a more nuanced understanding and approach to the situation is needed, and that the issue is more complicated than what is portrayed by the over-simplified narratives regurgitated incessantly within and outside Myanmar.’

A reworking of the article appears in The Nation on 2 March 2014.

The ten imperfections of insight (vipassanā-upakkilesa)


Central to Buddhist philosophy are the ideas of impermanence, suffering and not-self. In the following I will look at these ideas as they are expressed as the insight and subject of ‘right-view’. However, there is something of a subtle warning in the textual tradition. This warning takes the form of describing the ‘ten imperfections of insight’ (vipassanā upakkilesa) These imperfections are illumination, knowledge, rapturous happiness, tranquillity, bliss, resolution, exertion, assurance, equanimity and attachment. All of these factors can erase and obscure the truths revealed by embarking on the Buddhist path. They point to the danger of any position succumbing to attachment. The idea however goes further than this and, as is sometimes the case in Buddhist meditational theory, reflects the notion that what are otherwise positive qualities being prone to to destroying Buddhist practice.

The first example is taken from the khandavagga of the Saṃyutta-nikāya. The Paṭhamanandikkhaya-sutta (S III 51) subjects each of the five ‘aggregates’ (khandhas) to right-view:

‘Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu sees form as impermanent, which is actually impermanent: that is his right-view. Seeing rightly, he experiences indifference.[1] With the destruction of delight comes the destruction of lust; with the destruction of lust comes the destruction of delight. With the destruction of delight and lust the mind is liberated and is said to be well-liberated.’[2]

The other four khandhas are treated in the same way. Seeing any of the five as impermanent is right-view. It should be noted that seeing in a certain way, apprehending the ‘aggregates’ (khandhas) as impermanent, causes a specific form of behaviour: the experience of indifference (nibbidā). This, in turn, causes the liberation of the mind. The role of right-view is twofold: it sees things as they are and this is transformative. A similar theme is found in the Saḷāyatanavagga of the Saṃyuttanikāya. This time, seeing the six senses as impermanent is right-view.[3] Similarly, in the following sutta, seeing the six external sense bases, the objects of the senses (rūpa, sadda, gandha, rasa, phoṭṭhabba and dhamma) as impermanent is right-view. [4] In three further suttas from the Saḷāyatanavagga of the Saṃyuttanikāya the same teachings are found. These are the Micchādiṭṭhippahānasutta (S IV 147), the Sakkāyadiṭṭhippahānasutta (S IV 147-8) and the Attānudiṭṭhippahānasutta (S IV 148). In the first sutta, it is asked how one should know and see for ‘wrong-view’ (micchā-diṭṭhi) to be abandoned, in the second for ‘personality-view’ (sakkāya-diṭṭhi) to be abandoned and in the third for ‘views about self’ (attānudiṭṭhi) to be abandoned.[5] The answer given for ‘wrong-view’ (micchā-diṭṭhi) is that one should see each of the senses, their objects, contact with the objects, and the type of consciousness that they produce and any feelings (whether painful, pleasurable or neither) as impermanent. This is how wrong-view is abandoned. For sakkāya-diṭṭhi to be abandoned one should view the same things as unsatisfactory, and for attānudiṭṭhi to be abandoned one should see them as not-self.

Right-view as seeing: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’

In the Alagaddūpama-sutta (M I 136) is found the six ‘bases for views’ (diṭṭhi-ṭṭhāna). By ‘bases’ (ṭṭhāna) the text may be implying that they are the object which views take as their standpoint, their position. The ‘noble disciple’ (ariya-sāvaka) should regard the ‘aggreagates’ (khandhas) as: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’ instead of: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’ which are wrong-views.[6] The ariya-sāvaka is to regard what is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, encountered, sought, mentally pondered, as: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’. Finally, the basis for views, ‘This is self, this the world; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change; I shall endure and last as long as eternity’, this too he should regard as: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’. The suggestion is that of a detached and therefore wholesome way of seeing the world. Right-view proposes the notions of ‘not mine’, ‘not I’, and ‘not-self’. It proposes the cessation of craving and attachment.

Four non-perversions of view (na diṭṭhi-vipallāsā)

In the idea of the four perversions and non-perversions of view, similar notions are found. In a sense, the doctrinal content of views cannot be separated from the effect of views: the ideas of ‘is’ and ‘ought’. In the Vipallāsa-sutta (A II 52) we are told that there are four perversions of apperception (cattāro saññā-vipallāsā), four perversions of mind (cattāro citta-vipallāsā) and four perversions of view (cattāro diṭṭhi-vipallāsā). The vipallāsa is an inversion and distortion of reality. The Vipallāsa-sutta states that to hold that in the impermanent there is the permanent, is a perversion of apperception, mind and view,[7] to hold that in suffering there is happiness, is a perversion of apperception, mind and view,[8] to hold that in the not-self there is a self, is a perversion of apperception, mind and view,[9] and to hold that in the ugly there is the beautiful is a perversion of apperception, mind and view.[10] In the verses that follows the prose, this is described as ‘going to wrong-view’ (micchā-diṭṭhi-gatā).

To see the opposite, that which is impermanent as impermanent, that which is suffering as suffering, that which is not-self as not-self, and that which is ugly as ugly, are the non-perversions of apperception, mind and view.[11] It is these four ways of seeing which, in verse, are described as ‘undertaking right-view’ (sammā-diṭṭhi-samādānā), and by this undertaking of view all suffering is overcome (sammā-diṭṭhi-samādānā sabbaṃ dukkhaṃ upaccagun ti, A II 52).

In the Visuddhimagga, the vipallāsas are explained in the following terms:

‘There are three perversions, namely, the perversion of apperception, of consciousness and view, which occur apprehending objects that are impermanent, suffering, not-self and ugly, as permanent, pleasant, self, and beautiful.’[12]

The Nettippakaraṇa (Nett 83-84) states that to contemplate the body as the body abandons the perversion that there is beauty in the ugly (asubhe subhan ti vipallāsaṃ pajahati), and this abandons the attachment to sensual desire. To contemplate feeling as feeling abandons the perversion that there is pleasure in the painful (dukkhe sukhan ti vipallāsaṃ pajahati), and this abandons the attachment to existence (bhavupādāna, this term is unusual in this context). To contemplate the mind as mind (citta) abandons the perversion that there is permanence in the impermanent (anicce niccan ti vipallāsaṃ pajahati), and this abandons the attachment to views. To contemplate dhammas as dhammas, one abandons the perversion that there is self in the not-self (anattaniye attā ti vipallāsaṃ pajahati), and this abandons the attachment to the doctrine of self. There is possibly a connection between the abandoning of these perversions and the cultivation of the four foundations of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna).[13] I will return to this in chapter three and my discussion of the abandoning of the āsavas, and in chapter five and the discussion of the three gateways to liberation.

The ten imperfections of insight (vipassanā-upakkilesa)

The central idea in the passages I have been considering is one of misapprehending and grasping. Buddhaghosa explains that ‘clinging’ (parāmāsa) is a term for micchā-diṭṭhi, because it misses the individual essence of dhammas, by apprehending (āmasana) elsewhere an unreal individual essence’.[14] Or that those who do not have the correct attitude to the dhamma, who understand what is impermanent as permanent, have adherence to views (As 49). Buddhaghosa also states that ‘there comes to be the removal of ‘views’ (diṭṭhi) in one who sees volitional formations as not-self’.[15] It is in this way that they, micchā-diṭṭhi, are abandoned. It is, in fact, not only micchā-diṭṭhi but all diṭṭhi that are abandoned in this way. Attachment is not a predicate of right-view, of sammā-diṭṭhi. This is expressed by the idea of the ‘ten imperfections of insight’ (vipassanā upakkilesa) found in the Visuddhimagga. These imperfections are illumination, knowledge, rapturous happiness, tranquillity, bliss, resolution, exertion, assurance, equanimity and attachment.[16] It is due to these that the bhikkhu does not see impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self. Attachment is explained in the following terms:

‘Attachment is attachment due to insight. For when his insight is adorned with illumination, etc., attachment arises in him, which is subtle and peaceful in aspect, and it relies on (clings to) that insight; and he is not able to discern that that attachment is a defilement.’[17]

Attachment is then an imperfection of insight. Knowledge of what is of most importance, the eradication of dukkha, must not give way to craving for that knowledge. As right-view is explained as a type of wisdom (insight), so attachment and grasping are not part of its nature. If Buddhist doctrine becomes an object of attachment it is, in an important sense, incorrect doctrine. The content of Buddhist doctrine induces a cessation of craving and attachment.

[1] I follow Sue Hamilton in translating nibbidā as ‘indifference’, instead of using translations such as ‘revulsion’, which are misleading. The idea is that, with the achievement of right-view, there is detachment; see Hamilton, Identity and Experience, p. 184.

[2] aniccaññeva bhikkhave, bhikkhu rūpaṃ aniccan ti passati. sāssa hoti sammā-diṭṭhi, sammā-passaṃ nibbindati. nandikkhayā rāgakkhayo, rāgakkhayā nandikkhayo. nandirāgakkhayā cittaṃ vimuttaṃ suvimuttan ti vuccati, S III 51.

[3] aniccaṃ yeva bhikkhave bhikkhu cakkhuṃ [sotaṃ, ghānaṃ, jivham, kāyaṃ and manaṃ] aniccan ti passati. sāssa hoti sammā-diṭṭhi, sammā passaṃ nibbindati, nandikkhayā rāgakkhayo rāgakkhayā nandikkhayo nandirāgakkhayā cittaṃ suvimuttan ti vuccati, S IV 142.

[4] anicceyeva bhikkhave bhikkhu rūpe [sadde, gandhe, rase, phoṭṭhabbe and dhamma] aniccāti passati. sāssa hoti sammā-diṭṭhi, sammā passaṃ nibbindati, nandikkhayā rāgakkhayo rāgakkhayā nandikkhayo nandirāgakkhayā cittaṃ suvimuttan ti vuccati, S IV 142.

[5] kathan nu kho bhante jānato kathaṃ passato micchā-diṭṭhi [sakkāya-diṭṭhi […] attānudiṭṭhi] pahīyatī ti, S IV 147-8.

[6] To regard things as: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’ is described as the ‘perfect view’ (sampanna-diṭṭhi) in other parts of the canon (Paṭis I 160).

[7] anicce […] niccan ti saññā-vipallāso citta-vipallāso diṭṭhi-vipallāso, A II 52.

[8] dukkhe […] sukhan ti saññā-vipallāso citta-vipallāso diṭṭhi-vipallāso, A II 52.

[9] anattani […] attā ti saññā-vipallāso citta-vipallāso diṭṭhi-vipallāso, A II 52.

[10] asubhe […] bhikkhave subhan ti saññā-vipallāso citta-vipallāso diṭṭhi-vipallāso, A II 52.

[11] anicce […] aniccan ti […] dukkhe […] dukkhan ti […] anattani […] anattā ti […] asubhe […] asubhan ti na saññā-vipallāso na citta-vipallāso na diṭṭhi-vipallāso, A II 52.

[12] vipallāsā ti anicca-dukkha-anatta-asubhesu yeva vatthusu niccaṃ sukhaṃ attā subhan ti evaṃ pavatto saññāvipallāso cittavipallāso diṭṭhivipallāso ti, Vism XXII 53.

[13] These are to contemplate body as body, feelings as feelings, mind as mind, and dhammas as dhammas (M I 56).

[14] parāmāso ti tassa tassa dhammassa sabhāvaṃ atikkamma parato abhūtaṃ sabhāvaṃ āmasanākārena pavattanato micchā-diṭṭhiyā etaṃ adhivacanaṃ, Vism XXII 57.

[15] evaṃ saṃkhāre anattato passantassa diṭṭhisamugghāṭanaṃ nāma hoti, Vism XX 87.

[16] obhāsa, ñāṇa, pīti, passaddhi, sukha, adhimokkha, paggaha, upaṭṭhāna, upekkhā, nikanti, Vism XX 105. I am following Ñāṇamoli in translating nikanti as ‘attachment’ a term often used to translate upādāna; see Ñāṇamoli, The Path of Purification (Colombo, 1956), p 739.

[17] nikantī ti vipassanānikanti; evaṃ obhāsādi-patimaṇḍitāya hissa vipassanāya ālayaṃ kurumānā sukhumā santākārā nikanti uppajjati, yā nikanti kileso ti pariggahetum pi na sakkā hoti, Vism XX 122.

What those who have entered the Buddhist Path have ‘seen’: the realisation of ‘stream-attainment’ (sotāpanna)


If we read the texts that contain the stories of the Buddha’s awakening, we find that, during the three watches of the night he perceived paṭicca-samuppāda in forward and reverse order.[1] It is the realisation of this same process which establishes one as a ‘stream-attainer’ (sotāpanna). The stream-attainer is the first of four ‘noble-persons’ (ariya-puggala) of the Pāli canon, along with the ‘once-returners’ (sakadāgāmin), ‘never-returners’ (anāgāmin) and Arahants. The stream-attainer is one who is assured of awakening within a maximum of seven rebirths.[2] The texts give the following realisation as the insight or sammā-diṭṭhi that establishes one on the path of stream-attainment:

‘All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation.’[3]

This realisation, in this case that of Upāli, is said by the text to be the arising of the ‘vision of the dhamma’ (dhamma-cakkhu), which may be understood as the achievement of the path of stream-attainment. This insight appears as part of a standard formula and is found a number of times in the Nikāyas. This is the formulation of the ‘step by step discourse’ (anupubbi-kathā). I will give the passage in full, as it gives some context to what actually occurs when one attains ‘right-view’ (sammā-diṭṭhi):

‘Then the Blessed One gave the householder Upāli instruction step by step, that is, talk on giving, talk on virtue, talk on the heavens; he explained the danger, degradation, and defilement in sensual pleasures and the blessing of renunciation. When he knew that the householder Upāli’s mind was ready, receptive, free from hindrances, elated, and confident, he expounded to him the teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its arising, its cessation, and the path. Just as a clean cloth with all marks removed would take dye evenly, so too, while the householder Upāli sat there, the spotless immaculate vision of the dhamma arose in him: ‘All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation.’ Then the householder Upāli saw the dhamma, attained the dhamma, understood the dhamma, fathomed the dhamma; he crossed beyond doubt, did away with perplexity, gained intrepidity, and became independent in the teacher’s dispensation.’[4]

One could suggest that the Buddhist path develops from the cultivation of actions of body, speech and mind. This is reflected in the ‘ten wholesome courses of action’ (dasa kusala-kammapathā. In these actions there is a cultivation of physical and mental acts, culminating in the realisation of sammā-diṭṭhi. In a similar way, the step by step discourse progresses from instruction on giving and virtue to its culmination in the realisation of dependent-origination. In this instruction there is a very strong resemblance to the different types of right-view which are part of the Buddhist path. Right-view is at first the view that ‘actions have consequences’, It is the acceptance of the law of karma. This affects the actions of the person who holds the view, and the actions in turn affect the mind of the person performing these actions. This, in turn, leads to the realisation of dependent-origination. With the achievement of this view, one no longer grasps or craves any view whatsoever. This is the right-view of the path which goes beyond attachment. It is the view which transcends all views.

[1] For example Vin I 1, though not all accounts give the awakening in these terms.

[2] The ‘once returner’ (sokadāgāmin), will be reborn as a human no more than once and is assured of awakening; the ‘non-returner’ (anāgāmin) will, at death, be reborn in a ‘pure abode’ (suddhāvāsa) and gain awakening there; and the Arahant, who will never be reborn again.

[3] yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃtaṃ nirodhadhamman ti, M I 380.

[4] atha kho bhagavā upālissa gahapatissa ānupubbīkathaṃ kathesi. seyyathīdaṃ: dānakathaṃ, sīlakathaṃ, saggakathaṃ, kāmānaṃ ādīnavaṃ, okāraṃ saṅkilesaṃ, nekkhamme ānisaṃsaṃ pakāsesi. yadā bhagavā aññāsi upāliṃ gahapatiṃ kallacittaṃ muducittaṃ vinīvaraṇacittaṃ udaggacittaṃ pasannacittaṃ, atha yā buddhānaṃ sāmukkaṃsikā dhammadesanā, taṃ pakāsesi: dukkhaṃ samudayaṃ nirodhaṃ maggaṃ. seyyathāpi nāma suddhaṃ vatthaṃ apagatakāḷakaṃ sammadeva rajanaṃ patigaṇheyya. evam eva upālissa gahapatissa tasmiṃ yeva āsane virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ udapādi: yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman ti. atha kho upāli gahapati diṭṭhadhammo pattadhammo viditadhammo pariyogāḷhadhammo tiṇṇavicikiccho vigatakathaṅkatho vesārajjappatto aparappaccayo satthu sāsane, M I 379-80. This passage is also found in the Brahmāyu-sutta (M II 133-46) at M II 145, where it is realised by Brahmāyu, in the Ambaṭṭha-sutta (D I 87-110) at D I 109-10, where it is realised by Pokkharasāti, in the Kūṭadanta-sutta (D I 127-49) at D I 148, where it is realised by Kūṭadanta, in the Mahâpadāna-sutta (D II 1-54, spoken by Buddha Vipassī ) at D II 41, where it is realised by both Khaṇḍa and Tissa. The full formula is also found in the Sīhasenāpati sutta (A IV 179-88) at A IV 186 realised by Sīha, in the Vesālika-ugga-sutta (A IV 208-12) at A IV 209-10, realised by Vesāli, and at Udāna 49 realised by Suppabuddha. Further occurrences are found at Vin I 37, realised by twelve brahmins and householders of Magadha and King Bimbisāra. In the Dīghanakha-sutta (M I 497-501) at M I 501 the second half of the passage appears (from ‘the spotless immaculate vision of the dhamma arose’) and Dīghanakha realises the dhamma-cakkhu. In the Sakkapañha-sutta (D II 263-89) at D II 288-9 the dhamma-cakkhu arises in Sakka and eighty thousand devas, and they utter the sammā-diṭṭhi. The same thing happens in the Cūḷarāhulovāda-sutta (M III 277-80) at M III 280 to ‘many thousands of deities’. In the Gilāna-sutta (S IV 46-7) at S IV 47, an anonymous bhikkhu realises the dhamma-cakkhu and utters the view. Peter Masefield has looked at a longer version of this formula appearing in the canon; see Peter Masefield, Divine Revelation in Pali Buddhism (Colombo/London, 1986), pp. 58-71, 166. A further set of passages containing descriptions of the arising of the dhamma-cakkhu are found in the first book of the Vinaya. In these passages the Buddha’s first five followers realise the dhamma-cakkhu and utter the view. The occurrences are Koṇḍañña at Vin I 11, Vappa and Bhaddiya at Vin I 12, and Mahānāma and Assaji at Vin I 13. At Vin I 40-42 Sāriputta and Moggallāna realise the dhamma-cakkhu.