The Buddha's Advice On the Spiritual Path

The Wise Are Not Easily Moved
Just as a mighty boulder
Stirs not with the wind,
So the wise are never moved
Either by praise or blame

Dhammapada 6(6): 81

Self-Examination

Not others’ opposition
Nor what they did or failed to do,
But in oneself should be sought
Things done, things left undone.

Dhammapada 4(6): 50

Straighten Your Mind

A mind agitated, wavering,
Hard to guard and hard to check,
One of wisdom renders straight
As an arrow-maker with a shaft.

Dhammapada 3(1): 33

Blessings

Blest to have friends when one is in need,
Blest contentment with whatever is,
Blest is merit when life is at an end,
Abandoning all dukkha is blessedness.

Dhammapada 23(12): 331

The Tathagata's Threefold True Knowledge

"Venerable Sir, I have heard this: 'The recluse Gotama claims to be omniscient and all seeing, to have complete knowledge and vision thus: "Whether I am walking or standing or sleeping or awake, knowledge and vision are continuously and uninterruptedly present to me."'
"Vaccha, those who say thus do not say what has been said by me but misrepresent me with what is untrue and contrary to fact."

"Vaccha, if you answer thus: 'The recluse Gotama has the threefold true knowledge,' you will be saying what has been said by me and will not misrepresent me with what is contrary to fact. You will explain in accordance with the Dhamma in such a way that nothing which provides a ground for censure can be legitimately deduced from your assertion.

"For in so far as I wish, I recollect my manifold past lives, that is, one birth, two births, three births, … a hundred births, … a hundred thousand births, … And in so far as I wish, with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the+ human, I see beings passing away and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and I understand how beings pass on according to their actions thus: 'These worthy being as who are ill-conducted in body, speech, and mind, revilers of noble ones, wrong in their views, giving effect to wrong view in their actions, on the dissolution of the body, after death, have reappeared in a state of deprivation, in a bad destination, in perdition, even in hell; but these worthy being as who are well-conducted in body, speech, and mind, not revilers of noble ones, right in their views, giving effect to right view in their actions, on the dissolution of the body, after death, have reappeared in a good destination, even in the heavenly world.' And by realizing for myself with direct knowledge, I here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom that are taintless with the destruction of the taints.

Majjhima Nikaya 71:5-10 (Tevijjavacchagotta Sutta – The Threefold True Knowledge)

Uniqueness of The Buddha's Attainment

"Master Ananda, is there any single bhikkhu who possesses in each and every way all those qualities that were possessed by Master Gotama, accomplished and fully enlightened?"

"There is no single bhikkhu, brahmin, who possesses in each and every way all those qualities that were possessed by the Blessed One, accomplished and fully enlightened. For the Blessed One was the arouser of the unarisen path, the producer of the unproduced path, the declarer of the undeclared path; he was the knower of the path, the finder of the path, the one skilled in the path. But his disciples now abide following that path and become possessed of it afterwards."
Majjhima Nikaya 108:5 (Gopaka Moggallana Sutta)

Right Attitude for Practice

"Bhikkhus, for a faithful disciple who is intent on fathoming the Teacher’s Dispensation, it is proper that he conducts himself thus: ‘The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple; the Blessed One knows, I do not know.’ For a faithful disciple who is intent on fathoming the Teacher’s Dispensation, the Teacher’s Dispensation is nourishing and refreshing. For a faithful disciple who is intent on fathoming the Teacher’s Dispensation, it is proper that he conduct himself thus: ‘Willingly, let only my skin, sinews and bones remain, and let the flesh and blood dry up on my body, but my energy shall not be relaxed so long as I have not attained what can be attained by manly strength, manly energy, and manly persistence.’ For a faithful disciple who is intent on fathoming the Teacher’s Dispensation, one of two fruits may be expected: either final knowledge here and now or, if there is a trace of clinging left, non-return."

Majjhima Nikaya 70:27 (Kitagiri Sutta)

Preserving Truth

"But Master Gotama, in what way is there the preservation of truth? How does one preserve truth? We ask Master Gotama about the preservation of truth.

"If a person has faith, Bharadvaja, he preserves truth when he says: 'My faith is thus'; but he does not yet come to the definite conclusion: 'Only this is true, anything else is wrong.' In this way, Bharadvaja, there is the preservation of truth; in this way he preserves truth; in this way we describe the preservation of truth. But as yet there is no discovery of truth.

Majjhima Nikaya 95:15 (Canki Sutta)

Discovering the Truth

"But what, Master Gotama, is most helpful for the final arrival at truth? We ask Master Gotama about the thing most helpful for the final arrival at truth."

"Striving is most helpful for the final arrival at truth, Bharadvaja. If one does not strive, one will not finally arrive at truth; but because one strives, one does finally arrive at truth. That is why striving is most helpful for the final arrival at truth."

"Scrutiny is most helpful for striving, …. Application of the will is most helpful for scrutiny, … Zeal is most helpful for application of will, … A reflective acceptance of the teachings is most helpful for zeal, … Examination of the meaning is most helpful for a reflective acceptance of the teachings, .… Memorizing the teachings is most helpful for examining the meaning, … Hearing the Dhamma is most helpful for memorizing the teachings, … Giving ear is most helpful for hearing the Dhamma, … Paying respect is most helpful for giving ear, … Visiting is most helpful for paying respect, … Faith is most helpful for visiting, Bharadvaja. If faith [in a teacher] does not arise, one will not visit him; but because faith [in a teacher] arises, one visits him. That is why faith is most helpful for visiting."

Majjhima Nikaya 95:22-33 (Canki Sutta)

Restraining the Six Senses

Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope … and tether them by a strong post or stake.

Then those six animals, of different ranges, of different habitats, would each pull towards its own range and habitat … And when these six animals became internally exhausted, they would stand, sit or lie down right there next to the post or stake. In the same way, when a monk whose mindfulness immersed in the body is developed and pursued, the eye does not pull toward pleasing forms, and unpleasing forms are not repellent. The ear does not pull towards pleasing sounds … the nose does not pull toward pleasing smells … the tongue does not pull toward pleasing tastes … the body does not pull toward pleasing tactile sensations … the intellect does not pull toward pleasing ideas, and unpleasing ideas are not repellent. This, monks, is restraint.

The strong post or stake is a term for mindfulness immersed in the body.
Thus you should train yourself: "We will develop mindfulness immersed in the body. We will pursue it, give it a means of transport, give it a grounding. We will steady it, consolidate it, and set about it properly." That’s how you should train yourselves.
Samyutta Nikaya XXXV.206

Diminishing The Effect of Bad Kamma

"Suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into a small amount of water in a cup. What do you think? Would the water in the cup become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"

"Yes, Lord…"

"Now suppose a man were to drop a salt crystal into the river Ganges. What do you think? Would the water in the river Ganges become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"

"No, Lord …

"In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil act done by one individual (the first) takes him to hell; and there is the case … where the very same sort of trifling deed done by the other individual is experienced in the here and now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment."
Anguttara Nikaya III.99

Skillful and Unskillful Things

Now what is unskillful? Taking life is unskillful, taking what is not given … sexual misconduct … lying … abusive speech … divisive tale-bearing … idle chatter is unskillful. Covetousness … ill will … wrong views are unskillful. These things are termed unskillful.
And what are the roots of unskillful things? Greed is a root of unskillful things, aversion is a root of unskillful things, delusion is a root of unskillful things. These are termed the roots of unskillful things.

And what is skillful? Abstaining from taking life is skillful, abstaining from taking what is not given … from sexual misconduct … from lying … from abusive speech … from divisive tale-bearing … abstaining from idle chatter is skillful. Lack of covetousness … lack of ill will … right views are skillful. These things are termed skillful.
And what are the roots of skillful things? Lack of greed is a root of skillful things, lack of aversion is a root of skillful things, lack of delusion is a root of skillful things. These are termed the roots of skillful things.

Majjhima Nikaya 9:4-7 (Sammaditthi Sutta – Right View)

Abandoning Skillful and Developing Skillful Things

Abandon what is unskillful, monks. It is possible to abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible to abandon what is unskillful, I would not say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ But because it is possible to abandon what is unskillful, I say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ If this abandoning of what is unskillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ But because this abandoning of what is unskillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’

Develop what is skillful, monks. It is possible to develop what is skillful. If it were not possible to develop what is skillful, I would not say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ Because it is possible to develop what is skillful, I say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ If this development of what is skillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ But because this development of what is skillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’
Anguttara Nikaya II.19

Advice to Rahula
How do you construe this, Rahula: What is a mirror for?
For reflection, Sir.

In the same way, Rahula, bodily acts, verbal acts, and mental acts are to be done with repeated reflection.
Whenever you want to perform a bodily act, you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily act I want to perform – would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily act, with painful consequences, painful results? If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily act with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction … it would be a skillful bodily act with happy consequences, happy results, then any bodily act of that sort is fit for you to do.

(... Similarly with verbal acts and mental acts)
Majjhima Nikaya 61:8-9 (Ambalatthikarahulavada Sutta – Advice to Rahula at Ambalatthika)


Reflection on Food

And how does a monk know moderation in eating?
There is the case where a monk, considering it appropriately, takes his food not playfully, not for intoxication, nor for putting on bulk, nor for beautification, but simply for the survival and continuance of this body, for ending its afflictions, for the support of the holy life, thinking, ‘I will destroy old feelings [of hunger] and not create new feelings [from overeating]. Thus I will maintain myself, be blameless, and live in comfort.’ This is how a monk knows moderation in eating.

Anguttara Nikaya III.16

Futility of Worldly Gains

I see men wealthy in the world, who yet
From ignorance give not their gathered wealth.
Greedily they hoard away their riches
Longing still for further sensual pleasures.

Most other people, too, not just a king,
Encounter death with craving unabated;
[With plans] still incomplete they leave the corpse;
Desires remain unsated in the world.

Clad in a shroud, he leaves his wealth behind,
Prodded with stakes he burns [upon the pyre].
And as he dies, no relatives or friends
Can offer him shelter and refuge here.

While his heirs take over his wealth, this being
Must pass on according to his actions;
And as he dies nothing can follow him;
Not child nor wife nor wealth nor royal estate.

Longevity is not acquired with wealth
Nor can prosperity banish old age;
Short is this life, as all the sages say,
Eternity it knows not, only change.

Majjhima Nikaya 82:42 (Ratthapala Sutta)

Escape From Sensual Pleasures

"And what, bhikkhus, is the gratification in the case of sensual pleasures? Bhikkhus, there are these five cords of sensual pleasure. What are the five? Forms cognizable by the eye that are wished for, desired, agreeable, and likeable, connected with sensual desire, and provocative of lust. Sounds cognizable by the ear …odours cognizable by the nose … flavours cognizable by the tongue … tangibles cognizable by the body that are wished for, desired, agreeable, and likeable, connected with sensual desire, and provocative of lust. These are the five cords of sensual pleasure. Now the pleasure and joy that arise dependent on these five cords of sensual pleasure are the gratification in the case of sensual pleasure.

"Again, with sensual pleasure as the cause, sensual pleasure as the source, sensual pleasure as the basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures, people indulge in misconduct of body, speech, and mind. Having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, they reappear in states of deprivation, in perdition, even in hell. Now this too is a danger in the case of sensual pleasures, a mass of suffering in the life to come, having sensual pleasures as its cause, sensual pleasures as its sources, sensual pleasures as its basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures.
"And what, bhikkhus, is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures? It is the removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for sensual pleasures. This is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures.

Majjhima Nikaya 13: 7,15-16 (Mahadukkhakkhandha Sutta – The Greater Discourse on the Mass of Suffering)

Removal Of Attraction For Sensual Pleasures

"Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too clearly saw as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, but as long as I still did not attain to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures [bliss of deep meditative jhana states], apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, I recognized that I could still be attracted to sensual pleasures. But when I clearly saw as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, and I still attained to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, I recognized that I was no longer attracted to sensual pleasures.
Majjhima Nikaya 14:5 (Culadukkhakkhandha Sutta – The Shorter Discourse on the Mass of Suffering)

Where Mara Cannot Go

"And where is it that Mara and his following cannot go? Here, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Mara, to have become invisible to the Evil One by depriving Mara’s eye of its opportunity.
"Again, with the stilling of applied and sustained thought, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the second jhana, which has self-confidence and singleness of mind without applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of concentration. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Mara … (similarly for the third, fourth, and the four arupa jhanas).

Majjhima Nikaya 25:12-20 (Nivapa Sutta – The Bait)

The Noble Search

"And what is the noble search? Here someone being himself subject to birth, having understood the danger in what is subject to birth, seeks the unborn supreme security from bondage, Nibbana; being himself subject to sickness, having understood the danger in what is subject to sickness, he seeks the unailing supreme security from bondage, Nibbana; being himself subject to death, having understood the danger in what is subject to death, he seeks the deathless supreme security from bondage, Nibbana; being himself subject to sorrow, having understood the danger in what is subject to sorrow, he seeks the sorrowless supreme security from bondage, Nibbana; being himself subject to defilement, having understood the danger in what is subject to defilement, he seeks the undefiled supreme security from bondage, Nibbana. This is the Noble Search."
Majjhima Nikaya 26:12 (Ariyapariyesana Sutta – The Noble Search)

Purification of Offerings

In future times, Ananda, there will be members of the clan who are ‘yellow-necks’ [monks in name only], immoral, of evil character. People will give gifts to those immoral persons for the sake of the Sangha. Even then, I say, an offering made to the Sangha is incalculable, immeasurable. And I say that in no way does a gift to a person individually ever have greater fruit than an offering made to the Sangha.
There are four kinds of purification of offering. What four? There is the offering that is purified by the giver, not by the receiver. There is the offering that is purified by the receiver, not by the giver. There is the offering that is purified neither by the giver nor by the receiver. There is the offering that is purified both by the giver and by the receiver.

Majjhima Nikaya 142:8-9 (Dakkhinavibhanga Sutta – The Exposition of Offerings)

Types of Offerings

When a virtuous person to an immoral person gives
With trusting heart a gift righteously obtained,
Placing faith that the fruit of action is great,
The giver’s virtue purifies the offering.

When an immoral person to a virtuous person gives
With untrusting heart a gift unrighteously obtained,
Nor places faith that the fruit of action is great,
The receiver’s virtue purifies the offering.

When an immoral person to an immoral person gives
With untrusting heart a gift unrighteously obtained,
Nor places faith that the fruit of action is great,
Neither’s virtue purifies the offering.

When a virtuous person to a virtuous person gives
With trusting heart a gift righteously obtained,
Placing faith that the fruit of action is great,
That gift, I say, will come to full fruition.

When a passionless person to a passionless person gives
With trusting heart a gift righteously obtained,
Placing faith that the fruit of action is great,
That gift, I say, is the best of worldly gifts.

Majjhima Nikaya 142:14 (Dakkhinavibhanga Sutta – The Exposition of Offerings)

Danger And Escape From the Five Khandhas

What, venerable Sir, is the gratification, what is the danger, and what is the escape in the case of material form? What is the gratification, what is the danger, and what is the escape in the case of feeling … in the case of perception … in the case of formations … in the case of consciousness?
The pleasure and joy, bhikkhu, that arises in dependence on material form – this is the gratification in the case of material form. Material form is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change – this is the danger in the case of material form. The removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for material form – this is the escape in the case of material form. [Similarly for feelings, perceptions, formations and consciousness]

Majjhima Nikaya 109:12 (Mahapunnama Sutta – The Greater Discourse on the Full-Moon Night)

Humility in the Practice

Bhikkhus, what is the character of an untrue man? Here an untrue man who has gone forth from an aristocratic family considers thus: ‘I have gone forth from an aristocratic family; but these other bhikkhus have not gone forth from aristocratic families.’ So he lauds himself and disparages others because of his aristocratic family. This is the character of an untrue man.
But a true man considers thus: ‘It is not because of one’s aristocratic family that states of greed, hatred, or delusion are destroyed. Even though someone may not have gone forth from an aristocratic family, yet if he has entered upon the way that accords with the Dhamma, entered upon the proper way, and conducts himself according to the Dhamma, he should be honoured for that, he should be praised for that.’ So, putting the practice of the way first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of his aristocratic family. This is the character of a true man. [Similarly for consideration of various attainments along the path]
Majjhima Nikaya 113:3 (Sappurisa Sutta – The True Man)

Conduct To Be Cultivated  And Not To Be Cultivated


‘Bhikkhus, bodily conduct is of two kinds, I say: to be cultivated and not to be cultivated. And bodily conduct is either the one or the other.’ So it was said by the Blessed One. And with reference to what was this said?
Venerable sir, such bodily conduct as causes unwholesome states to increase and wholesome states to diminish in one who cultivates it should not be cultivated. But such bodily conduct as causes unwholesome states to diminish and wholesome states to increase in one who cultivates it should be cultivated.
And what kind of bodily conduct causes unwholesome states to increase and wholesome states to diminish in one who cultivates it? Here someone kills living beings … he takes what is not given … he misconducts himself in sensual pleasures. Such bodily conduct causes unwholesome states to increase and wholesome states to diminish in one who cultivates it.
And what kind of bodily conduct causes unwholesome states to diminish and wholesome states to increase in one who cultivates it? Here someone, abandoning the killing of living beings, abstains from killing living beings … he abides compassionate to all living beings. Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given… Abandoning misconduct in sensual pleasures, he abstains from misconduct in sensual pleasures … Such bodily conduct causes unwholesome states to diminish and wholesome states to increase in one who cultivates it.

Majjhima Nikaya 114:5 (Sevitabbasevitabba Sutta – To Be Cultivated And Not To Be Cultivated)

Speculative Views

Vaccha, the speculative view that the world is eternal is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a vacillation of views, a fetter of views. It is beset by suffering, by vexation, by despair, and by fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.
The speculative view that the world is not eternal … that the world is finite … that the world is infinite … that the soul and the body are the same … that the soul is one thing and the body another … that after death a Tathagata exists … that after death a Tathagata does not exist … that after death a Tathagata both exists and cdoes not exist … that after death a Tathagata neither exist nor does not exist is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a vacillation of views, a fetter of views. It is beset by suffering, by vexation, by despair, and by fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. Seeing this danger, I do not take up any of these speculative views.

Majjhima Nikaya 72:14 (Aggivacchagotta Sutta – To Vacchagotta on Fire)

The Noble Truth of Suffering

And what, monks, is the Noble Truth of Suffering? Birth is suffering, ageing is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering. Being associated with the unloved is suffering, being separated from the loved is suffering, not getting what one wants is suffering. In short, the five aggregates of grasping are suffering.
Digha Nikaya 22:18 (Mahasatipatthana Sutta – On The Foundations of Mindfulness)

The Noble Eightfold Path

And what, monks, is the Noble Truth of the Way of Practice Leading to the Cessation of Suffering? It is just this Noble Eightfold Path, namely: Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.
Digha Nikaya 22:21 (Mahasatipatthana Sutta – On The Foundations of Mindfulness)

Ten Wholesome And Ten Unwholesome States

Killing living beings is unwholesome, abstention from killing living beings is wholesome; taking what is not given is unwholesome, abstention from taking what is not given is wholesome; misconduct in sensual pleasures is unwholesome, abstention from misconduct in sensual pleasures is wholesome; false speech is unwholesome, abstention from false speech is wholesome; malicious speech is unwholesome, abstention from malicious speech is wholesome; harsh speech is unwholesome, abstention from harsh speech is wholesome; gossip is unwholesome, abstention from gossip is wholesome; covetousness is unwholesome, uncovetousness is wholesome; ill will is unwholesome, non-ill will is wholesome; wrong view is unwholesome, right view is wholesome. In this way ten things are unwholesome and the other ten things are wholesome.
Majjhima Nikaya 73:5 (Mahavacchagotta Sutta)

Wrong Sacrifices


Prince, when a sacrifice is made at which oxen are slain, or goats, fowl or pigs, or various creatures are slaughtered, and the participants have wrong view, wrong thought, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, and wrong concentration, then that sacrifice is of no great fruit or profit, it is not very brilliant and has no great radiance. ….But when none of these creatures are put to death, and the participants have right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, then that sacrifice is of great fruit or profit, it is brilliant and of great radiance.
Digha Nikaya 23:31 (Payasi Sutta – Debate With A Sceptic)

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